First Things First Manifesto

The original manifesto written in 1964 raises the question of the purpose of graphic design in a time when design was being used to sell ‘frivolous’ products in a society that was becoming ever more commercialized – 22 artists, designers and photographers signed a declaration adressing the visual arts community almost pleading with them to focus on an ‘information’ orientated work – giving people information, highlighting issues and raising questions rather than using their skills to sell “catfood, stomach powders, …” the manifesto states that “the greatest efforts of those working in the advertising industry are wasted on thee trivial purposes, which contribute little or nothing to our national prosperity.”  – the manifesto suggests that although we can not get rid of the world of commercial advertising there should be a reversal in priorities with a shift towards focussing on social, cultural and environmental issues and raising questions about such issues – to create USEFUL and LASTING communications – things that change ideas.The manifesto gained support from a member of parliament Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Tony Benn) who printed the manifesto in the Guardian newspaper saying we must all take responsibility for “the waste of talent” and further expanding the manifestos audience.

The revisited manifesto (2000) shares the same message but in a somewhat more urgent way saying it is now more important than ever to focus on things other than using design to sell/persuade – the revisited manifesto becomes a political statement creating a link between politics/economics that we see now.

What does this mean to us?
The manifesto raises a point that we all as designers and visual communicators should take time to consider – what are we doing this for? simply to add to the consumerist consumptionist society that we live in or to TRY and have some sort of positive affect/ impact on the world we live in. Contemporary designers are now more than ever faced with this impossible task of finding a cause to believe in or that is ethically/socially/ culturally worthy and not pointless advertising of trivial products with no real impact on the quality of the world.

The manifesto has made me realise that the path I want to take is one dealing with political, ethical and social issues rather than an advertising commercial orientated career as I feel somewhat drawn to helping people understand the issues we deal with – creating clear and concise ways of showing rather than telling people – informing them.


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