Monday, 27 October 2014

First things First (a manifesto)

The First Things First manifesto was written 29 November 1963 and published in 1964 by Ken Garland. It was backed by over 400 graphic designers and artists and also received the backing of Tony Benn, radical left-wing MP and activist, who published it in its entirety in the Guardian newspaper.
Reacting against a rich and affluent Britain of the 1960s, it tried to re-radicalise a design industry which the signatories felt had become lazy and uncritical. Drawing on ideas shared by Critical Theory, the Frankfurt School and the counter-culture of the time it explicitly re-affirmed the belief that Design is not a neutral, value-free process.
It rallied against the consumerist culture that was purely concerned with buying and selling things and tried to highlight a Humanist dimension to graphic design theory. It was later updated and republished with a new group of signatories as the First Things First 2000 manifesto.

I would say its clear Garland wanted graphic design to be more than materialistic, he appealed to designers to design for society, a purpose and a function.
However he states 'we do not advocate the abolition of high pressure consumer advertising: this is not feasible.' Which means he realises the limits of the idea of being completely anti-consumer, as people will always want to buy, he himself at this time designed work for a toy company, but I think that is the choice of whether the company/product/outcome are actually harmful or detrimental to society, like designing food packaging for children when you know it is of no nutritional value, that to me is a bad choice , a toy company is perhaps a lesser evil. 
I agree with Ken Garland in this statement I do think that completely abolishing consumer advertising is not feasible, and graphic designers still need to earn a wage to live, but again as I have stated I think there are certain choices you can make in the right direction. 

This manifesto seemed to of had an effect on designers and resonated with some of them as in 2000, a re-draft of the first things first manifesto was devised, not by Ken Garland but by Rick Poynor. (though Ken Garland did sign it)

First Things First 2000
'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 programmes, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.
We propose a reversal of priorities in favour 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.
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 Helfand
Steven 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 VanderLans
Bob Wilkinson'

The manifesto clearly had gained a lot of significant supporters, the ones I have highlighted have been mentioned in particular in my own reading and studies, and I think that this shows the international recognition for this cause and that it was and is at the forefront of most graphic designers minds.

This manifesto is a little more aggressive than the previous, 'Consumerism is running uncontested: it must be challenged.' Poynor is suggesting a challenge to the system. The change in the tone of the manifestos now drives towards the abolition of consume culture.The tone also suggests more urgency.
I think that this is a good idea but at the same time, what would replace consumerism ? I think that it will never be abolished, but we can work for more ethical companies and morally right reasons, however graphic design doesn't always have to be serious and I think that this is a flaw of the manifesto, it doesn't give room for design that is less formal and more fun. 

Other points made in this manifesto:
  • The product mentioned in this manifesto have a more serious, unethical problem behind them for instance, sneakers, a lot of sneaker companies use factories in third world countries and employ children as their workers.
  • The rising cost of the products suggest that consumer culture is growing more and more, for instance diamonds are now in the list of items.
  • the word 'visual communicators' is now used to describe a wider variety of people in the creative industry, meaning it is not just designers that can make a change. 
  • Poynor also suggests that 'commercial messages are changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel and interact.' meaning that society is being simplified, a certain 'dumbing down'.

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