First Things First Manifesto

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First things first is a design manifesto that was written in 1963 by Ken Garland and published in 1964. Garland is a British graphic designer who also specialised in photography, witting and education. He studied at central school of arts and craft in London then began to work as an art editor of design magazine (UK) from 1956 to 1962. Garland then moved on to forming a design studio called ‘Ken Garland & Associated’ that was created in Camden, London in 1962. Ken Garland & Associates produced work for clients such as Which? magazine, paramount pictures etc.

The original manifesto was published by 22 signatories in: Design, the Architects’ Journal, the SIA Journal, Ark, Modern Publicity and The Guardian. It was approved by over 400 creative personalities of the time that first thing first was first published in April 1964. Garland states how he thinks that the medias influence on the public is ‘sheer noise’ and that as designers there are ‘other things more worth using our skill and experience on’. This suggest how he wants to break away from the mainstream and make a difference to the design world. He wants to share his ideas to visually communicate messages to imprint and inspire other colleagues, students etc.

In 2000 the manifesto was updated by people of the creative industry and was republished by Emigre, Eye as well as other graphic design magazines which has created controversy again in the graphic design world. In the updated manifesto they state how designers have been raised into using their creative ideas and skills in advertising, as commercial work pays the bills. Although, they think that there are other areas that deserve designers ‘problem-solving’ skills such as magazines, films, charitable causes etc. They feel that giving other areas of graphic design priorities, shows a longer lasting form of communication that will not or less likely to out date. ‘Debate is shrinking; it must expand’ suggests how designers should start to ask questions and challenge beliefs and values to make ideas more powerful through visually communicating messages which will make them last longer.

First thing first was then revisited by Rick Poyoner and he describes how we ‘live and breathe design’, everything around us has been designed. Within our culture we are so exposed to design that the audience accepts that it is all around us. He states how the designer have the power to decide on how they want an audience to feel when looking at a piece of design work by the way it has been mediated.

Reflecting upon the first things first manifesto my understanding is that the power of graphic communication is limitless. As the design world develops there are so many different areas that you can expand on. Graphic design is not only about whether a piece looks visually aesthetic, it’s about communicating a message to an audience and being able to make an impact on the audience to think and feel a certain way. The manifesto touches upon ethics, this has made me think further into different aspects of graphic communication and whether as a designer it in in my ethics to do promotional material for a cigarette company etc. Also about how you shouldn’t limit yourself to one mainstream area of graphic design for example designing to sell tv’s, start to think how you as a designer can make an impact of the world. There is no right or wrong answer in graphic communication as there are so many different areas that you can take, although this manifesto has made me think whether you want to be that person to push boundaries. As a graphic communicator I hope to be able to take risks and make an impact on the design world.

The First Things First Manifesto

Ken Garland Designboom Interview

Ken Garland



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