First Things First Manifesto by Andrea Dahlen

WHO: Ken Garland, Adbusters, AIGA Journal, Blueprint, Emigre, Eye, Form, Items

WHEN: Originally written by Ken Garland in 1963 and published 1964. Updated version published by Adbusters, AIGA Journal, Blueprint, Emigre, Eye, Form, Items 1999/2000

WHERE: Britain then Global

WHAT: A manifesto written by Ken Garland and signed by 21 of his colleagues critiquing the graphic design profession in relation to the growth of commercial culture. The manifesto emphasized that the vast majority of design projects address corporate needs and stressed the distinction between design as communication and design as persuasion.

“Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what we do. This is 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”

WHY: This manifesto was created to steer focus and designers attention on environmental, social and cultural issues and away from product marketing. It was written for graphic designers to begin to question what their line of work had to do with the wider needs and problems of society. He encouraged designers to ask “in whose interest and to what ends?” is this product serving and motivate designers to focus their skills for the greater good.

HOW: The manifesto received immediate backing from his colleagues, whom participated in signing the manifesto, and also from various publications including The Guardian. From the increased publicity the manifesto spread globally and received a following.


Design Studies A Reader. Hazel, Clark. Brody, David. BERG New York, 2009

pg 174-175 “First Things First 2000” AIGA

pg 176-179 “Design Is About Democracy” Poyner, Rick

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