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Open lecture on Thursday 18 October 2012 in the Ateneum Hall, Helsinki.

Victor Papanek (1923-1998), designer, teacher and author of the seminal work Design for the Real World (1971) is widely acknowledged as a founder of socially responsible design. First published in Swedish in 1970 as Miljön och miljonerna: design som tjänst eller förtjänst? (The Environment and the Millions: Design Service or Profit?), Papanek’s  critique of contemporary design culture originated from his extended interactions with design students in Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen in the late 1960s; and went on to influence a generation of design students world-wide.

Victor Papanek and the learning environment for children. Photo (c) Kristian Runeberg. Source: Helsinki Design Lab Archive

The lecture explores the innovative research methods implemented by Papanek and his contemporaries during this period, highlighting their reliance on participatory anthropological methods as a means of subverting conventional commodity politics. From a 1968 collaborative student design project for children with cerebral palsy in Helsinki, through to anti-consumer culture broadcasts in the US, the lecture reveals how Papanek and fellow design activists struggled to accommodate conventional product design within a user-driven ‘anti-commodity’ aesthetic.

Alison J. Clarke is Professor of Design History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and director of the Victor J. Papanek Foundation in Vienna.

Alison J. Clarke: “Actions Speak Louder” –

Victor Papanek and the Aesthetics of 1970s Design Activism

Open artek lecture organized by Alvar Aalto Academy

Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Hall, address Kaivokatu 2, Helsinki


Lecture is in English

Further information: Merja Vainio, tel. +358 (0)400 772 636,