Design for the real world by Victor Papanek


Even if written in 1971, “Design for the real world” by Victor Papanek is still relevant today and probably will always be since it’s advocating responsible design in a world where the resources are getting poorer. He strongly believes that design must be used to shape the society in a positive way by improving the life quality of the ones in need.

Design is the conscious effort to impose meaningful order.

Anything that does not add functional value is considered by Victor Papanek as a perversion of design. In a more elaborated definition of Louis Sullivan’s simple principle that “Form follows function”, he enunciates six parts of the function complex.


  1. METHOD: the interaction of tools, materials and processes which need to be used optimally by appealing to creativity
  2. USE: answering to the question “does it work?”
  3. NEED: genuine need (economic, psychological, spiritual, technological, intellectual) vs. instilled one by fad and fashion
  4. TELESIS: the design must reflect the times and conditions that have given rise to it and must fit in with the human socio-economic context
  5. ASSOCIATION: our psychological condition determined by environment, education and culture comes into play towards or against a certain value
  6. AESTHETICS: a tool that helps to transform shapes and colours into elements that move and please us

I do encourage you to read this book and share your opinion in the comments.


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