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Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change Paperback – August 30, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0897331531 ISBN-10: 0897331532 Edition: 2 Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 2 Revised edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0897331532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0897331531
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Thoroughly provocative." — Time

"The book is wonderfully alive, and full of examples to instruct, amuse or horrify. The enthusiasm and verbal exuberance of Papanek as he rips away the pretensions, hypocrisises and vices of the real world are always stimulating." — Arthur Conway, New Scientist

About the Author

Although most of Dr. Papanek's work had been in product design, his background included architecture and anthropology. He taught or chaired departments at universities in Canada, the United States, Denmark, Sweden and England. In recognition of his work to create a closer understanding between the impoverished Third World and technologically advanced countries, he was nominated for the Alternative Nobel Prize. In 1981 he received the ICSID/Kyoto Honours Award for his development of a communications device for the governments of Tanzania and Nigeria. He was also senior design consultant to Volvo of Sweden, to the government of Papua New Guinea and to a medical lighting firm in Australia. From 1981 he was permanent J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Dr. Papanek died in 1998.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
I highly recommend this book to design students and professionals.
richard hughes
Papanek clearly shows that real design should be about improving the way our world, and our society should work.
Michael A. Scott
This book was for many the start on thinking about preservation while designing.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on February 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first heard a lecture by Victor Papanek about 20 years ago, shortly before this revised edition was released. He was a very impressive speaker, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of ecological design ideas. His work has taken him far and wide and in the process allowed him to revamp many of his views on environmental design. This book is an extensively updated version of his seminal book on the subject. It has become a bit dated in the 20 years since its release, especially in regard to computer software design. But, most of the material he covers is still relavent to the present, as we have only begun to scratch the surface of sound ecological ideas.
Having read the more recent books on ecological design by Sim Van Der Ryn and William McDonough, I was surprised to see that neither mentioned Papanek, who prefigured many of the ideas they present in their current books. Papanek long ago advocated the lease/use principle, which makes much more sense in a rapidly changing technological world than does the buy/own principle that continues to dominate our social thinking. Papanek notes the many cultural and psychological blocks we have created for ourselves when it comes to ecological design, but also illustrates how we can overcome these blocks with methods such as bisociation, first proposed by Arthur Koestler. But, what really makes this book stand out are the great number of illustrations that Papanek uses to demonstrate his ideas. This is one of the most practical books written on environmental design.
While Papanek was an industrial designer, his ideas are equally germaine to the field of architecture and biology.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have just read about V.Papanek's recent death. I can't believe I wrote my past comment just 4 days before his death. I feel very moved, it's a big loss for the design world. I am copying here what the IDSA wrote about him: Victor Papanek Passes Away (1926-1998) Internationally renowned designer, professor and mentor Victor Papanek, IDSA, passed away at age 72 on January 10. His health had been failing him for the past three years. Papanek was widely admired for his advocacy of socially responsible design. He once summed up his chosen field this way: "The only important thing about design is how it relates to people." In remembering Papanek, Honorary IDSA member Ralph Caplan, remarked that "He was the first industrial designer to really begin to talk critically about design as a force for good and suggesting that, conventionally design wasn't necessarily that." Papanek was the J.L. Constant Professor of Architecture and Design at the University of Kansas since 1981 and was author of eight books on design. In his revolutionary and best-selling Design for the Real World, first published in 1971, and since translated into 23 languages, Papanek suggested something both startling and prophetic: the necessity for designers to adopt a morally responsible and holistic approach, adapting technology to the individual's real needs and tapping into the wisdom and experience of other societies, particularly those of the Third World. He traveled around the world giving lectures about his ideas on ecologically sound designs to serve the poor, the disabled and the elderly. He was closely connected with folk art and crafts and studied Oriental, Eskimo and American Indian cultures to better understand basic human needs and their relationship to design.Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 26, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this book covers the larger focus of industrial design, its message is important for all designers. It proposes the "radical" idea that designers should become aware of the social context of their work. This is such a special gem, I can't do any better describing it than its own Table of Contents: Part One: How It Is 1. What is Design?: A Definition of the Function Complex 2. Phylogenocide: A History of the Industrial Design Profession 3. The Myth of the Noble Slob: Design, "Art", and the Crafts 4. Do-It-Yourself Murder: Social and Moral Responsibilities of Design 5. Our Kleenex Culture: Obsolecence and Value 6. Snake Oil and Thalidomide: Mass Leisure and Phoney Fads Part Two: How It Could Be 7. Rebel With a Cause: Invention and Innovation 8. The Tree of Knowledge: Biological Prototypes in Design 9. Design Responsibility: Five Myths and Six Directions 10. Environmental Design: Pollution, Crowding, Ecology 11. The Neon Blackboard: Design Education and Design Teams 12. Design for Survival and Survival Through Design: A Summation
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. Brickler on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first spotted this book while studying in Denmark last year, where my host parents had studied under Victor Papanek. I would have studied under him at the University of Kansas, if not for his untimely and unfortunate passing. This book is one of the best books on the principles and ethics of design. It illustrates both the designer's responsibility and the potential to affect real change in the world through design. This most renowned of works by Papanek focuses on industrial design in two parts: How It Is, and How It Could Be. Papanek encourages radical thinking in design, and most of the topics in the book are easily translated to architecture. To my knowledge, reading this book has never been a required part of the core curriculum at the School of Architecture and Urban Design here at KU, but in my opinion, it should be.
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