It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Papanek on industrial design

School is consuming my life, so I’m making notes for future posts to my design journal.   Expect winter break to be a cavalcade of posts on WHY I AM SO AMAZINGLY BRILLIANT…

Today I was talking to a undergrad who is disillusioned with what he’s studying in industrial design studio.  While we were talking, I was reminded of something Papanek wrote that helped me figure out What I Want to do With My Life.

_Design for the Real World_, a book that got Papanek kicked out of the IDSA, really made me wake up and think about what it is I am doing and why.  The revised edition of _Design for the Real World_ is much better than the original, but the first paragraph stays the same:

There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. Industrial design, by concocting the tawdry idiocies hawked by advertisers, comes a close second. Never before in history have grown men sat down and seriously designed electric hairbrushes, rhinestone-covered shoe horns, and mink carpeting for bathrooms, and then drawn up elaborate plans to make and sell these gadgets to millions of people. Before (in the “good old days”), if a person liked killing people, he had to become a general, purchase a coal mine, or else study nuclear physics. Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed. And the skills needed in these activities are carefully taught to young people.

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posted by jet at 21:58  


  1. I’ve been a practicing industrial designer since 1973. All in all, it is a noble field. We’re the consumer advocate within large corporations and typically, at least throughout my career, very little voice in corporate policy, objectives or strategies… that is until recently. When Papanek wrote his book, there was truth there, but designers didn’t then and don’t now, set the agendas for the CLIENT!!! I’d like to think that I’ve made concrete contributions visa vis the medical equipment I’ve designed. I believe in my heart that most of the products I’ve designed have made life better, easier, less complicated and enjoyable had I not become an industrial designer. Sure, there are a lot of trinkets and jim bobs that aren’t needed in the world, yeah, that’s true, but don’t blame the designer… it all starts with the client. I look back at the body of work over a 45 year career and I’m pleased… I’m not perfect, that’s for sure, but I’m pleased with my life.

    All the best

    Jim Girard

    Comment by Jim Girard — 2008/10/28 @ 01:54

  2. […] Quote via: All Art Burns […]

    Pingback by Design Sojourn | Strategic Industrial Design Blog » Has Design Evolved since Papanek? — 2008/10/28 @ 08:24

  3. He forgot to mention that the people in our field tend to be some of the most arrogant and elitist on the planet.

    Comment by Matt Aspen — 2008/10/29 @ 12:09

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