Born in Vienna, Austria in 1923, Victor Papanek immigrated to the United States to study design and architecture. He earned his B.A. at Cooper Union and his M.A. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Papanek taught design at many institutions worldwide and functioned as a strong advocate for socially and ecologically responsible design.
The Many Hues of Charity
A divergent thinker, Papanek’s Design for the Real World peregrinates through a myriad of topics over the course of its 300+ pages. But in particular, I found his thoughts on work as charity intriguing.
The Meaning of Design
|Photo by Vector Hugo|
Others might consider design through the lens of logos and typography. While design plays a part in producing these items, it’s more holistic.
“Design is composing an epic poem, executing a mural, painting a masterpiece, writing a concerto. But design is also cleaning and reorganizing a desk drawer, pulling an impacted tooth, baking an apple pie, choosing sides for a back-lot baseball game, and educating a child” (3).In short, design is the act of creativity behind solving a problem.
The Problems of the Design Industry
Instead of designing products that last, designers create goods with designed obsolescence—one makes more money when customers continually repurchase the same items. Even more, most of the design industry caters to the highest classes. While 80% of the world struggles around the poverty line, designers work on the next product for the affluent.
Papanek mourns this development:
“Isn’t it too bad that so little design, so few products are really relevant to the needs of mankind” (51)?
Papenak argues for a charitable principle in the design world. Much like the Old Testament tenet of “gleanings”, Papenak suggests designers devote a portion of their time lending creativity and problem solving abilities to social and ecological issues.
“Being designers, we don’t have to pay money in the form of kymmenykset or a tithe. Being designers, we can pay by giving 10 per cent of our crop of ideas and talents to the 75 per cent of mankind in need” (57).
|Photo by Anna|
Design for the Real World dives into many issues. But for me, the charitable giving of our time resonates. Our work is a gift. While some positions lend themselves better to financial charity or volunteer work, other jobs directly influence the way we live. It is well worth considering how we can be charitable with our work. Check out Design for the Real World.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
Posted by: Donovan Richards
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