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Design for the Real World April 18, 2010

Posted by Yuan-Yu Kristy Liao in Design Thinking, [Books] Ways of Thinking.
1 comment so far

About this book

It is not possible to explain this “Design for the Real World” with a few simple words, but it is a must-read for those who are interested in “really” doing design. The book does not have many newest, most advanced cases, neither did it tell us how to design practical, pretty, fancy products; but Victor Papanek taught us the most basic yet fundamental aspect: the design attitude. He explored issues from many levels, from the basics to the profound; including the true meaning of design, how to originate thinking from human and as human, how to integrate design and life, how to create values in design sustainability, how to benefit the society with design, and how to design with natural laws.

Victor Papanek analyses and explains the essence of “design for the real world” from many aspects. He starts with analyzing global enterprises and government policies, explaining how they consumes carelessly the world resources for their own profit, while disregarding our environment; thus reminding designers to care for the social and environmental sustainability. He discussed the true essence of aesthetics, how the superficial and depth (including functional) aesthetics differ, and he proposed may practical problem solving skills. As far as he is concerned, the biggest problem in school education today is that it has missed the most important point: facing the real problems. In short, besides really practical design issues, he has brought into light the many design problems in today’s society and schools.

Critical analysis of the book

This book levels a tremendous impact on me. As a designer in this field for nealy 10 year, I fully appreciate how designers, because of their total devotion on their works, overly placed emphasis on philosophical design process, design aesthetics, and deep design concepts, and ignore the most fundamental human needs. This book allows designers to reflect and return to contemplate the meaning of a living design.

Basically I agree with all his points, especially his insightful questioning of the status quo — with the exception that I feel that he did more criticize rather than praise. He has pointed out many problems, no doubt, but unfortunately he left out those match “Design for the real world” cases. It would be helpful to address both, so readers may also discover the existing methods that they can draw inspiration and enlightenment (rather than just despise) from.

The value of this book

Written 30 years ago, this book now bears the aura of a prophet, calling the awakening of the designers’ consciousness in sustainability, green, the love of Earth, the love of nature. The author’s insight and wisdom make this book a book for all time, a book for all lives.

The relevance of the book

This book establishes a basic design approach from “attitude” and “contemplation,” but in order for readers to gain a broader perspective in the field of design, or for them to become a real professional in design, three areas must also be addressed. First is to have more real case studies and modern industrial design works. Second is to build, form the human-centered perspective, design that involves human body (as well as psyche) consciousness. Third, plunge into the nature and experience in first person the core objectives of eco-design.

The following book recommendations are related to the three areas.

  • Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services (2009) Kim Goodwin, Wiley-Academy.
  • EcoDesign: The Sourcesbook (2002) Alastair Fuad-Luke, Chronicle Books LLC.
  • Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design (2006) Ken Yeang, Wiley-Academy
  • The Chair: Rethink Culture, Body, And Design (1998), Galen Granz, WW Norton & Company.
  • The Design of Everyday Thing (2000) Donald A. Norman, MIT Press.
  • The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding (2008), Mark Johnson, The University of Chicago Press.