I will preface this with the fact that I haven’t read Papanek for over 10 years. So this is a decade’s worth of irritation augmented by fuzzy memory…
hmmmmm…what irritates me about Papanek? I remember, very distinctly walking away from reading Design for the Real World thinking that this guy is nothing but a whining, idealistic, granola eating, tree hugging, anti-establishment, Henry David Thoreau throwback. I thought Thoreau was a buffoon as well.
What has changed since I read him is that I now think of him as a well-intentioned whining, idealistic, granola eating, tree hugging, anti-establishment, Henry David Thoreau throwback. I still think Thoreau was a buffoon.
Like most things in life anything that is extremist in its views, and I definitely took Papanek’s views as extremist, is polarizing. He gave you no choice but to believe the he believed. No area of gray. Like it or lump it.
As me papa used to say, “That simply ain’t realistic, Son”.
You see, I come from the camp that believes Industrial Design is for the masses. It is not an artisen field. Not that you can’t be called an Industrial Designer if you produce one-off pieces of furniture…I simply tend to call someone in that profession an artist.
I have looked into the idea of producing products as valxcurry proposes. The problem being is that the numbers don’t add up. Well, they do, but the risk/reward ratio is low. There are some huge gaps in the assisted living catagory, but they are low volume relative to most consumer products Example: Augmentative Speech Devices (look them up). They are horribly designed. There is a huge gap to improve and make significantly more usable. They aren’t because they require a huge amount of time/capital to implement (correctly). It not realistic. Someone can, and likely will, do it one day. It just is not something that should be preached to every student that this is the way to design.
Industrial Design is chock-o-block of well intentioned humans. A significant amount of Designers seem to believe that the Lowest Common Denominators of the world requires our attention. When, to the contrary, there is are some processes of thought that there is too much intervention going on (example: in the sense that the Western World is providing too much charity to Africa creating over-dependency).
Back to Papanek. As I have stated, I believe he is well intentioned. As is anyone who wants to do the world good. My beef is that I would have much preferred business intelligence (a la Gore and his Inconvenient Truth approach) to extremist arrogance (which is how I read Papanek’s take).