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Design for the Real World Redux

About Victor J. Papanek

Social responsibility is at the core of any discussion regarding Victor J. Papanek (1923-1998) and his approach to contemporary design. His ideas on, and critique of, design practice and culture resonate as soundly today as they did when he published them in his seminal and polemical book, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971). Papanek argued for research over impulse in the production of creative, sustainable, safe, interdisciplinary, and cross-cultural design. In a Papanek-designed society, objects and structures are responsive to the needs of both man and earth.

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1923, Papanek moved to the United States in 1939 and later to Sweden with his family in the early 1970s. Educated at The Cooper Union in New York and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Papanek shared philosophies with some of the most influential people of our time, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and Ralph Nader. In addition to his career as a product designer, he traveled extensively as a designer, teacher, and author with a dedicated interest in architecture and anthropology. Through thoughtful consideration he applied his research and experiences to design tools meant to improve the quality of life in developing countries around the world.

Read Victor J. Papanek's complete Wikipedia biography
Victor Papanek on

Read about Victor J. Papanek on
Victor Papanek—A Rebel With a Cause

To purchase a copy of Victor J. Papanek's book Design for the Real World,
visit The Store at Museum of Arts and Design online.

About the Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award

The Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award was established to commemorate the acquisition of Papanek’s archive and library in 2010 by the Victor J. Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

About the Museum of Arts and Design

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craftsmanship, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting-edge technologies. The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day. At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families, and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances, and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft, and design.

About the University of Applied Arts Vienna

The University of Applied Arts Vienna is home to more than 1,800 students, many of whom come from other countries both in and outside Europe. The range of courses, which are on offer is unusually diverse and includes architecture, fine arts (painting, graphics, sculpture, photography, ceramics), stage design, design (fashion, graphic design, graphics and advertising, landscape design), industrial design, media design (transmedia arts, digital art), conservation and restoration, pedagogic studies forartistic teaching disciplines, textile design and handicrafts. It is precisely the diversity of these artistic disciplines, which is supplemented by a large number of scientific subjects, that contributes to the special atmosphere that prevails at the “Angewandte.” The university sees itself as a place for free artistic and scientific articulation, as a forum for open discussion and a development laboratory for artistic visions, which should fulfill their potential and shape the society of the future. Our claim to be one of the world’s best art schools and the retention of this position are indelibly linked to systematic efforts aimed at the permanent further development of our quality standards, the ongoing renewal of creative potential and the uncompromising promulgation of the freedom of the arts and sciences.

About the Austrian Cultural Forum New York

The Austrian Cultural Forum New York, an agency of the Republic of Austria, is located in an extraordinary architectural landmark building in Manhattan. It is the Cultural Section of the Austrian Consulate General in New York. It offers free admission to all of its events, which are not-for-profit and frequently engages in cultural events with social, charitable and educational context and purpose, in cooperation with Austrian and Austrian-based artists. It is a cultural, academic, and intellectual meeting place for Austrians, Americans, and citizens from all over the world.


The Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award was established to commemorate the acquisition of Papanek's archive and library in 2011 by the Victor J. Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Victor J. Papanek

Victor J. Papanek
Photography by Roger Conrad. Design For The Real World, Pantheon Books, 1971.

Museum of Arts and Design White Box Victor J. Papanek Foundation University of Applied Arts Vienna Austrian Cultural Forum New York Design Indaba