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Manifestos in Design Essay Example
Manifestos in Design Essay Example

Manifestos in Design Essay Example

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  • Pages: 3 (1373 words)
  • Published: July 5, 2016
  • Type: Essay
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Manifestos summarise the beliefs and views of a particular individual or groups of people and are written for a number of reasons to serve different purposes. They can be a platform for controversial and misunderstood members of society to clarify their opinions and express their message without limitation. They can be created to unite those who share similar views and to provide others with a new perspective. A manifesto can also be a voice of reason, written by those who are considered influential in their field to lay down a set of rules against which others can make references.

A manifesto can be written by anyone, but how influential it might become is often determined by the importance of the group or individual that has created it. Ten Principles of Good Design is an example of an influential manifesto. This is largely due to how respected the writer, Dieter Rams, is as an industrial designer. The conclusive list is often referred to as the Ten Commandments because other designers use it to guide their work in a similar way to how devoted christians are guided by the Decalogue. Whether a certain design is aesthetically pleasing or not is often debatable according to the taste of a particular individual. However, Rams' years of experience and credentials in the design industry authorises him to define good design, which goes beyond the aesthetics of design. The list demands that to be considered good, the design makes a product function as intended without unnecessary frivolity, is innovative and timeless, against


other criteria.

In contrast to this list of good design, thirty years later, Nigel Bents proposed a manifesto in the form of pictures that demonstrate what bad design looks like as 'an example for all to see and none to emulate'. Being that Bents, a lecturer at Chelsea College of Art and Design and at Kingston School of Art and Design, is a professional in the graphic design industry he is in a position to specify what bad design is 'to the designers of tomorrow' and fellow typographers. He states; that 'in failure the human spirit is revealed', which explains why he finds himself attracted to what he considers 'bad type' design. He describes what he considers bad type through a list of industry-specific terms such as 'script caps with soft shadows' and 'stretched to the edge and cropped at the sides, printed in yellow on day-glo paper'. Bents is celebrating imperfection by implying that recognising the bad will encourage progression towards perfection, whereas Rams is striving for perfection by making a list of what is good.

Another manifesto, that depicts what is considered right and wrong practice, is found in the form of a Guardian Weekend fashion article. Like the Ten Principles of Good Design, this list is created to guide people towards perfection, however like the Bad Type Manifesto, it also highlights clothing considered imperfect such as 'cheap and nasty pink gingham' and 'a shiny England top'. By stating what not to wear, the writer is advising people what items of clothing to eliminate from their sprin

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wardrobes. This article would have been written by a collective of fashion journalists and is to be taken less seriously than Rams definitive list. Due to its context as a magazine article and also conforming to the often formal tone of manifestos, it is written in standard English which contrasts humorously with the constant reference to commercial trends in today’s popular culture.

For example, 'Furthermore, we will sweep away sartorial bureaucracy and clear the way for ankle boots to be worn without fear of ridicule' and 'We will endeavour to purchase the season three box set of Mad Men, so we will remain fully briefed on the wardrobe of Don Draper'. Similar to Nigel Bents, the writers of the Manifesto for men and women have made the assumption there is a collective opinion among their audience on what is definitely considered unacceptably bad. Typography and clothes run parallel with each other in regards to trends undulating in and out of fashion: the same time typefaces Curlz Mt and Comic Sans were released in the mid nineties, people in their mid twenties were seen wearing fluorescent drawstring trousers and hair scrunchies.

The Manifesto for men shows an environmental conscience by saying 'Our aim is to create a country where wardrobes are greener, slicker and more fashionable'. However, this is contradicted in the Manifesto for women by saying 'We won't waste money on two-month fads such as a Marc Jacobs bum bag; we will buy such frivolities from' which, while seemingly making a negative comment about buying into short-term trends, actually encourages consumerism by advising people to make cheap purchases they will inevitably later regret on a fashion website, Another piece of advice in the article encourages throwaway culture: 'We will scrap the six-inch platforms and rediscover the joy of the mid-height heel'. In contrast to this less conscious article, Ken Garland wrote a manifesto called First Things First in 1964, a time when British economy was booming, which is anti-consumerism and against the use of design expertise to advertise commercial, trivial commodities including slimming diets, hair restorer and aftershave lotion. This manifesto strives towards better use of design.

As previously mentioned, status matters in regards to how influential a manifesto can be, so it would have been beneficial to Ken Garland that he had the backing of twenty-one of his colleagues who signed the First Things First manifesto, including well-established figures such as Edward Wright, who taught experimental typography at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and influential typographer Anthony Froshaug. The manifesto, via one of the signatories, caught the attention of Labour Member of Parliament, Anthony Wedgwood Benn who reprinted the entire manifesto in his weekly Guardian newspaper column. Thirty six years later, a group of prolific designers created First Things First Manifesto 2000 which revisited Garlands ideas and renewed his message.

Erik Spiekermann, Milton Glaser and Jonothan Barnbrook and thirty other prolific visual communicators signed it. Both manifestos contain the same messages but the 2000 manifesto brings the first up to date by making reference to more recent, relatable consumer

goods that are 'inessential at best' such as credit cards, butt toners and designer coffee. The statement in the 2000 manifesto that the original message 'has only grown more urgent' is still very much the case today. If Garland thought that 1964 had 'reached a saturation point at which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise', he would have considered the present high pitched scream of consumer selling to be deafening.

Garland and the signatories of the recent First Things First believe designers should aid current environmental, social and cultural crises. By putting their skills to use for these pursuits, their talent could have a long-lasting, important effect on our planet. The Ten Principles of Good Design manifesto shares a similar message in that two of the principles listed are long-lasting and environmentally friendly. Dieter Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development in the 1970s and stated that 'obsolescence is a crime'. If designers tenaciously adhered to his rules, or at least those with a conscience, the creation of 'useless stuff' would be minimized and therefore relieve designers of the guilt shared by their social and environmental responsibility. Architect Caroline Pidcock, president of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, said ‘Sustainable design is about creating environments that allow people to live, work, play in such a way that the opportunities to do similar will not be compromised in the future.’

Manifestos that contain important messages such as those previously mentioned are essential by simply existing. Whether they reach millions or a few, their message is still being shared. This rings true for manifestos that relate to the design world as well as manifestos that address other social and cultural issues. The author or collective creating the manifesto is free to express their opinions and personal findings. The rest of the world can react, make judgements or simply ignore what has been said, but the unique message of the author/s has been set almost in stone, because once it is written it becomes a piece of history.