Victor Margolin: A tribute from the Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media

The study of history requires investigation, imagination, empathy and respect.
–Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes (2010)

On behalf of our 300 members around the world that comprise the Cumulus family, we would like to extend our sincere condolences and deep sense of loss for Professor Victor Margolin’s passing this past week. It is important to state that with Victor gone, we have lost one of the truly giant scholars and most generous educators amongst our midst in the international design field.

We remain greatly indebted to Victor for his support and championing of the values that Cumulus celebrates in advocating for the greater role of design in society. Over the years, we were often together in international convenings that included Victor’s presence and contributions. Many of us remember the consequential keynote he offered during the 2013 Cumulus Conference at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden. That lecture was titled “The Good Society Project: An Action Frame for the 21st Century.” In it he presented us with an important list of the priorities design and designers should be focusing their attention on. Fast forward almost seven years later, we are compelled to conclude that his call to action resonates with more urgency that ever:
“To invent a new action frame is not only a matter of changing values. It is necessary to change strategies well. I would like to mention here eight conditions that call for a new strategy of action on a global scale. First: Population Growth. More people on the planet require more resources and a different means of distributing them. Second: older people who require care and financial support. Third: Climate change. Fourth: Increased consumption of natural resources. Fifth: A global financial system that is out of control. Sixth: An unacceptable gap between the rich and the poor worldwide. Seven: A reduction of jobs due to new robotic and expert systems technology. Eight: Fundamentalist religious beliefs that divide the world’s peoples. What is to be done?” –Victor Margolin, Cumulus Conference, Linnaeus University Proceedings, Kalmar, Sweden, 2013.

Of course, Victor was also a beloved mentor and cherished colleague to many of us. A professor emeritus of design history at the University of Illinois, Chicago, a preeminent design historian, author of the epic, multi-volume publication The World History of Design and editor of MIT’s celebrated journal Design Issues, Victor truly embodied the four traits that another brilliant historian, the American Jill Lepore, calls out in in the opening citation of this testimonial: investigation, imagination, empathy and respect. If you read Victor’s prolific writing or, better yet, remember one of your encounters with him during a lecture or live conversation, you will undoubtedly agree that to be in his presence represented an invitation to marvel at his endless curiosity, his encyclopedic knowledge and his deep care and slight sense of mischief.

With immense gratitude for your unwavering commitment to design, we are honored to celebrate your legacy and your many gifts, Professor Margolin. We will miss you!

Mariana Amatullo, PhD
President, Cumulus

on behalf of the Cumulus Secretariat, the Cumulus Executive Board and our members around the world.

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