First Things First 2000 is bold in language, but has a sense of rebellious words driven by guilt rather than good intent. Ken Garland’s 1964 manifesto, gentler in language, is inclusive, mentioning the general public equally with the undersigned. First Things First 2000 eschews this in favour of “Many of us”, and the tone becomes self important and demanding, implying the signatories had been tricked into working in ways they didn’t intend. I prefer the original manifesto’s generous offer of sharing experience and opinions, to an urgent demand for seemingly unachievable sudden change.
First Things First 2000 argues that causes, social consciousness, high culture and the arts are far more important than the items of everyday life. While I agree designers have been co-opted into a commercially driven reality, I would argue that using those problem solving skills in making every-day living better for all individuals is equally important to creating inspirational outcomes via social cause or art.
In dissecting the language of the manifesto, Beirut reveals a group of individuals who feel they’ve been fooled into unimportant work, seeking validation by trying to identify their aspirational ideals with well respected traditional art culture. He reminds that the search for a loftier purpose disregards the worth and “common decency” (Beirut 2007, p 60) of good, problem solving design for common items used by the public every day.
Bierut, M. (2007). Ten footnotes to a manifesto. In M. Bierut (2007), 79 short essays on design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Emigre 51. (1999). First things first manifesto 2000. Retrieved from http://www.emigre.com/Editorial.php?sect=1&id=14
Design is History. n.d.. The First Things First Manifesto (1964). Retrieved from http://www.designishistory.com/1960/first-things-first/