Max Bruinsma on Thu, 26 Aug 1999 19:09:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> First Things First


The manifesto below summons designers, visual communicators and
advertisers worldwide to concentrate on things more serious than promoting
dogfood and deodorants... 

The manifesto, signed by 33 prominent graphic designers, art-directors and
critics, is published jointly this Autumn by seven international design
magazines: Adbusters (CAN), The AIGA Journal (USA), Blueprint (UK), Emigre
(USA), Eye (UK), Form (BDR), Items (NL). 

The manifesto aims at stimulating the debate on the cultural and social
responsibility of designers. Signatories and publishers welcome its free

For more information and background (introductions by Rick Poynor and
Chris Dixon, and the original 1964 manifesto that inspired First Things
First 2000):

Reactions to:

           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 

           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 


           Jonathan Barnbrook
           Nick Bell
           Andrew Blauvelt
           Hans Bockting
           Irma Boom
           Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
           Max Bruinsma
           Siān 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

max bruinsma

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