First Things First


First Things First original manifesto written by Ken Garland  and signed by an additional 21 Graphic designers (visual communicators) in 1964. The manifesto was a reaction to the direction of advertising in the consumer world at the time, where the British economy was booming, attitudes and consumerism was changing. The manifesto called upon designers to consider their influence and examine alternative uses for their talents as opposed to working to promoting consumerism. It lashed out against the fast paced, trivial productions of main stream adverting, accusing them of being insignificant and time-consuming, filling the consumer with unnecessary noise. 

Four hundred copies of First Things First were original published and immediately received backing from many well-established figures, as well as Students, teachers, young designers and photographers.

Guardian newspaper 24th January 1964, Tony Benn reprinted the manifesto in his weekly column. “The responsibility for the waste of talent which they have denounced is one we must all share,” he wrote. “The evidence for it is all around us in the ugliness with which we have to live. It could so easily be replaced if only we consciously decided as a community to engage some of the skill which now goes into the frills of an affluent society.”

Garland and were quickly brought the to fame, he partook in many interviews following its release in a variety of publications, and also led to a TV appearance for the BBC news.

In an interview with Eye magazine no. 66 vol 17, in 2007 Garland states that he has “always thought it was terribly important to be able to say to someone: You don’t need this – you can do without this symbol or you can do without this sign.I think graphic design will only come of age when it can take on these sorts of questions, and sometimes answer them by saying, what you need here isn’t graphic design it’s whatever else. Or maybe nothing.”

The manifesto was republished at the beginning of 2000,  signed by 33 designers, and published in Adbusters, Emigre and the AIGA Journal in North America, in Eye and Blueprint in Britain, Items in the Netherland and Form in Germany,  it placed further emphasis on the commercial nature of graphic design, building on Garlands original.


The reproduction of the manifesto demonstrates the continuing requirement for a change of attitude needed. A poster version of the manifesto was also designed with the relaunch of the manifesto. Designed by Adbusters and dispatched to design school around the world.

Its aim was to stimulate discussion in all areas of visual communication – in education, in practice, in the organisations that represent design’s aspirations, values and aims. To look at the changing relationship of advertising, graphic design, commerce and culture presenting many questions and dilemmas that have again been overlooked. As a consequence, many young designers have little conception of the values, ideas and a sense of responsibly that once shaped the growth and practice of design. Lets make a stance to the changes in commercial society and be more aware of our accountably and social responsibility with in our profession, to help to make sense of the world that we live in without burdening them with distorted views.




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