A Reductive And Immeasurably Harmful Code Of Public Discourse

Do you know about the First Things First manifesto? I did not, until today.
According to Wikipedia, this is what it’s about:

The First Things First manifesto was written 29 November 1963 and published in 1964 by Ken Garland. Today we may not understand the significance of the document which at the time caused consternation. 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 sixties, it tried to re-radicalise design which 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 under the First things first 2000 Manifesto.

Here’s a clip from the 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.
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.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Doer of the things written about herein.