Has Design Evolved since Papanek?

Such legendary negativity.

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.

He would have been brilliant if he was a tad bit more positive eh? Anyways what do you think, has Design evolved or are we still churning out crap?
Hmm…we need to learn to “consume” less somehow. Well there goes my new MacBook!
Quote via: All Art Burns

8 Comments
  • Michael

    October 28, 2008 at 10:18 pm Reply

    I agree completely that the message should have been more positive. All his points are correct, but I think they turn more designers off. Instead, he could have inspired us, or better yet, given us tangible ways to solve this problem.

  • Michael

    October 29, 2008 at 10:17 am Reply

    The portion of his soap box speech that seems to be missing is the part where he acknowledges that these are the growing pains of a fledgling field. This might have been brilliant if it were a segway into where we ought to be. Design for all intensive purposes is in its infancy. We’re learning to walk. Wait until interaction design becomes completely integrated with industrial design and we’ll start to see some exciting motion.
    We create artifacts that are dangerous and bad for the environment not because that is all that is possible. Our processes are worn thin by tight budgets and accelerated time lines. I worked at a major design consultancy and the reason why the Walmarts of the world don’t sign off on green design or that extra bit of safety is because we lack the knowledge to implement them at a cheaper cost. Industry is without conscience it does not care about what is good for the environment it cares about revenue. How can you blame it when that is precisely what it was designed for. In a way our greatest failure has been in not providing the alternatives that are “good” and at the same time cheap. I look to leaders like William McDonough as a sign of things to come.
    This should not go without mention that there are certainly people in the industry who are already creating “good” products. I would imagine that the ratio of these designers to the general mass is in the same ball park as the ratio of lazy designers in college to the innovators. It would be naive to think that the entire design community would produce good design ever. The best that you can hope for is to make waves at the top and hope that the middle and bottom follow.
    On another note, DT thanks for commenting on my blog. I browsed your work and you get a thumbs up in my book. Night 🙂

  • Darlenvennita

    October 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm Reply

    Our processes are worn thin by tight budgets and accelerated time lines. I worked at a major design consultancy and the reason why the Walmarts of the world don

  • jet

    October 29, 2008 at 10:12 pm Reply

    And what Papanek goes on to show in the rest of the book is how you can be a designer that makes the world a better place instead of a designer that makes junk that ends up in landfills.

  • tom

    October 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm Reply

    but aren’t you forgeting something? designers are part of the problem, yes, but also part of the solution! in fact, the problem is not the designers but the companies who contract them for designing crappy products. as designers we have the chance to revert this.

  • Ajay

    October 29, 2008 at 11:18 pm Reply

    Designers do what consumers want. It is a bit egoistic to think we Designers are some kind of unsung messiahs who can change the world and prevent evils and landfills from happening. We make technology accessible and productive to user, while also making it look good. Every product is the result of constrains, real or perceived, by the design team. Go green initiatives are double edged swords, many a times, they turn out to do more harm than the predecessor, as seen by Ethanol and re-usable diapers fiasco.

  • shane

    October 31, 2008 at 8:57 am Reply

    yes we produce alot of crap. partly we are to blame and partly we are not. What this excerpt fails to aknowledge is that the poor work from ID is no more of a burden on society than the poor work inherent in any other profession. designers aren’t to blame, neither are managers, marketers or any other profession in general. The problem is the people who do a poor job in their profession.

  • DT

    November 4, 2008 at 10:06 pm Reply

    Hi all,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and being part of this very good debate.

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