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This article was originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "Design Provocateur: Revisiting the Prescient Ideas of Victor Papanek". “Today industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis,” declared Victor Papanek, design provocateur and critic, from the podium of a design-activist happening in 1968. “By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim,” he roared, “by creating a whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed.” Papanek’s timely polemic—that design was a political tool to be wrested away from corporations and handed back to the public—was concretized in his best-selling 1971 book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, which resembled Rachel Carson’s environmentally apocalyptic Silent Spring and Stewart Brand’s counterculture bible Whole Earth Catalog in its tone and urgency. Translated into more than 20 languages, it was a clarion call to a new generation of designers, particularly students, who, armed with Papanek’s searing critique, demanded new socially relevant curricula and an end to straitjacketed formalist design dicta. View more View full description
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