First Things First Manifesto


What was it?

The manifesto was a reaction to the staunch society of 1960’s Britain and called for a return to a humanist aspect of design. Written in 1963 at a time when Britain was booming and Graphic Design was popular after the conditions left by the post war years. It was then published in 1964 by Ken Garland and 20 other designers, photographers and students. The manifesto was quick to reach a wide audience and picked up by the Guardian, spreading to TV, magazines, journals and newspapers.

First Things First Manifesto was then picked up again by a group of new authors and designers in 2000. The reason for this was due to the fact it’s relevance to the present day was more urgent than ever, focusing on efforts of design, advertising, education and public service tasks that could improve society. The manifesto created much criticism and was said to be a naive attempt to create design without any political meaning. It encouraged designing with a purpose and to show designers the impact of their work on society!

Who is Ken Garland? 


‘the choice of the trading name ‘Ken Garland and Associates: Designers’ was in order to signify that the outfit didn’t consist merely of one designer. those who worked with me between 1962 and 2009 have always been designers designing – no secretaries, no typists, no donkey-workers. there were never more than three of them at any one time.’ – KG

Born in 1929 Ken Garland is a British Graphic Designer, writer and political activist and has made an outstanding contribution to the development of Graphic Design. He studied design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London 1950’s, followed by six years of being art editor of Design magazine. Ken Garland created a challenge for Graphic Designers and other visual communicators and this shifted so that it approached many aspects of their professions. Therefore Garland wanted to reduce the media’s impact on commercialism in the design world and putting an end to their power.

How does this relate to me?

After reading this piece I ask myself what is the purpose of a Graphic Designer? It is brought to my attention that Graphic Design is challenged in our society and that its only purpose is in promoting, selling and advertising. It says in the text , ” The greatest effort of those working in the advertising industry are wasted on these trivial purposes”, as designers we are gifted to be able to communicate our designs to those around us and we use it to share our experiences and to make beneficial changes in our society.

The text has inspired me to think how I could communicate my talents so that they’re not “wasted” on advertising or commercial purposes and how my work could affect the way people “think, feel, respond and interact”. It has made me consider how design is struggling to become an art and not just something we use to make life slightly easier from day-to-day!

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