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First Things First Manifesto 2000

Various authors

This manifesto was first published in 1999 in Emigre 51.

 
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 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 heart.

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


A Selection of Essays from Emigre Magazine

Essays on Type and Typography

Essays on Emigre

Interviews with Rudy Vanderlans

Interviews with Zuzana Licko

Other Essays


 

A Selection of Essays from Emigre Magazine
 


Ambition/Fear
By Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 11.


Neomania
By Anne Burdick. Published in Emigre 24.


Fallout
By Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 30.


An Interview with Steven Heller
By Michael Dooley. Published in Emigre 30.


An Interview with David Shields
By Michael Dooley. Published in Emigre 30.


An Interview with Edward Fella
By Michael Dooley. Published in Emigre 30.


An Interview with Mr. Keedy
By Michael Dooley. Published in Emigre 30.


In and Around: Cultures of Design and the Design of Cultures
Part I

By Andrew Blauvelt. Published in Emigre 32.


Discovery by Design
By Zuzana Licko. Published in Emigre 32.


In and Around: Cultures of Design and the Design of Cultures
Part II

By Andrew Blauvelt. Published in Emigre 33.


An Interview with Rick Poynor
By Mr. Keedy. Published in Emigre 33.


Radical Commodities
By Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 34.


Copping an Attitude
By Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 38.


Graphic Design and the Next Big Thing
By Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 39.


That was then, and this is now: but what is next?
By Lorraine Wild. Published in Emigre 39.


Graphic Design in the Postmodern Era
By Mr. Keedy. Published in Emigre 47.


Skilling Saws and Absorbent Catalogues
By Kenneth FitzGerald. Published in Emigre 48.


First Things First Revisited
By Rick Poynor. Published in Emigre 51.


First Things First Manifesto 2000
Various authors. Published in Emigre 51.


Saving Advertising
By Jelly Helm. Published in Emigre 53.


The Emigre Legacy
By Rudy VanderLans. Published in Emigre 56.


Sustainable Consumerism
By Chris Riley. Published in Emigre 59.