VC501 – Design Manifesto: First Things First 2000 A Manifesto

The First Things First 2000 manifesto, launched by Adbusters magazine in 1999, was an updated version of the earlier First Things First manifesto written and published in 1964 by Ken Garland, a British designer.

The 2000 manifesto was signed by a group of 33 figures from the international graphic design community, many of them well known, and simultaneously published in Adbusters (Canada), Emigre (Issue 51) and AIGA Journal of Graphic Design (United States), Eye magazine no. 33 vol. 8, Autumn 1999, Blueprint (Britain) and Items (Netherlands). The manifesto was subsequently published in many other magazines and books around the world, sometimes in translation. Its aim was to generate discussion about the graphic design profession’s priorities in the design press and at design schools. Some designers welcomed this attempt to reopen the debate, while others rejected the manifesto.

The question of value-free design has been continually contested in the graphic design community between those who are concerned about the need for values in design and those who believe it should be value-free. Those who believe that design can be free from values reject the idea that graphic designers should concern themselves with underlying political questions. Those who are concerned about values believe that designers should be critical and take a stand in their choice of work, for instance by not promoting industries and products perceived to be harmful. Examples of projects that might be classified as unacceptable include many forms of advertising and designs for cigarette manufacturers, arms companies and so on. Adbusters has been a significant outlet for these ideas, especially in its commitment to detournement and culture jamming.

 

First Things First 2000 A Manifesto

We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and visual communicators who have been raised in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of our talents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the market rewards it; a tide of books and publications reinforces it.

Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This, in turn, is how the world perceives design. The profession’s time and energy is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at best.

Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of design. Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.

There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programs, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.
We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by other perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and resources of design.

In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for our skills to be put to worthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global commercial culture, their message has only grown more urgent. Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that no more decades will pass before it is taken to heart.

Signed: Jonathan Barnbrook, 
Nick Bell
, Andrew Blauvelt
, Hans Bockting, 
Irma Boom
, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, 
Max Bruinsma, 
Siân Cook
, Linda van Deursen, 
Chris Dixon
, William Drenttel
, Gert Dumbar
, Simon Esterson
, Vince Frost
, Ken Garland
, Milton Glaser
, Jessica Helf and
S teven Heller, 
Andrew Howard, 
Tibor Kalman, 
Jeffery Keedy, 
Zuzana Licko
, Ellen Lupton
, Katherine McCoy, 
Armand Mevis
, J. Abbott Miller
, Rick Poynor, 
Lucienne Roberts
, Erik Spiekermann
, Jan van Toorn
, Teal Triggs
, Rudy Vander Lans
, Bob Wilkinson. And many more.

Sections of this post are sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Things_First_2000_manifesto

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