The First things first manifesto 2000 is, on face value at least, a concise and well thought out piece that aims to re-establish designers as legitimate artists and more than just commercial marketing tools. Beneath the surface of this call to arms for designers everywhere however – or at least those, the undersigned, of the manifesto – the root cause of the authors’ issues seem to hinge more on a lack of personal recognition. Further evidence, provided by Michael Bierut (2007), even goes as far as to identify the 33 signatories of the manifesto as part of the “cultural elite” and questions whether or not they have ever even participated in any form of design for the corporate machine that they so detest.

“A Cynic, then, might dismiss the impact of the manifesto as no more than that of witnessing a group of eunuchs take a vow of chastity.” (Bierut 2007, p. 55)

Speaking in broad general terms it cannot be denied that the design industry as a whole has been impacted by globalisation and become another cog in the corporate machine. It also cannot be denied that a piece, similar to the First things first manifesto 2000, does hold some merit in helping to create a more harmonious public discourse for design as an industry. For this to be achieved, however, those who are writing it must do so from the front lines of design and not from an ivory tower.


Emigre 51. (1999). First things first manifesto 2000. Retrieved from

Bierut, M. (2007). Ten footnotes to a manifesto. In M. Bierut (2007), 79 short essays on design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

2 thoughts on “First things first – Manifesto or Manifestation?

  1. Feedback as required.

    Great viewpoint – I think your article shows a great point of view that although a lot of design nowadays has led to a corporate approach doesn’t disregard the quality of work being supplied.

    Well done 🙂


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