First Things First Manifesto

First Things First Manifesto

Design can be both a benefit to society and a scourge on our senses. Think the useful design of an emergency exit sign or anti-smoking campaign then compare that to a giant red hand screaming at you on TV telling you the prices are down down.

As a graphic designer which would you prefer to do?

Did you know that back in 1964, designers in Britain were having the same feelings.

Ken Garland along with 20 other designers, photographers and students wrote the First Things First manifesto. This was a response to the the “fast-paced and often trivial productions of mainstream advertising.”

Their hope was that we should focus design efforts on education and public service. The manifesto was quick to reach a wide audience getting picked up by TV, newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Fast forward to the year 2000. The frivolous electro 90s has come to an end and the manifesto was revisited by a new generation of designers hot on the heels of cigarette advertising and many other harmful uses of graphic design.

This second group of 33 signatories featured names you should know well – Milton Glaser, Vince Frost, Jessica Helfand and Lucienne Roberts to name a few.

With an updated mission adapted to the modern day, the 2000 version takes aim at an industry that values disposable commercial work over all others and in turn changes how the world perceives and values graphic design.

I encourage you to read both versions. They are motivating and seem so relevant today.

We are all guilty of pursuing commercialisation in order to pay the bills but maybe its time to strike a better balance.

  • Should graphic designers concern themselves with underlying political questions?
  • Can design do harm?
  • Are we eroding the value of our professions and passions?

Some interesting references:


The Original Manifesto   |   Wikipedia

The updated 2000 Manifesto   |   Wikipedia

First Things First Billboard

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