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.

Thus begins the preface to Victor Papanek’s Design For the Real World, first published in 1971. With a battle cry such as that, you’re quickly drawn in; marching the streets with him, fist raised in the righteous name of morally responsible design. Right up until your next trip to Ikea.

It’s an important and influential book, you should read it. Beyond the preface its contents is constructive rather than simply polemic and the theory is backed up by many examples of environmentally/socially conscious designs. One example is this project to design artificial burrs that prevent erosion, deliver plant seeds and are produced using recycled material (click for the full scale scan).


This entry is brought to you thanks to a link that jogged my memory on the always-brilliant We Make Money Not Art:

Johnny Applesandal is eco-conscious footwear that allows the customer to participate in environmental cleansing through the dispersion of soil-cleaning plant seeds.

Perhaps industrial design isn’t quite as phony as it was in 1971. Perhaps some industrial design isn’t quite as phony as it was in 1971.