Jenna Spevack | COMD3504_OL08 | FALL 2021

Reading & Discussion Week 12

‘First Things First’ original manifesto from 1964


For this week’s reading and discussion be sure to review the section on Authorship & the Social Responsibility Movement of the New Millennium in the Week 12 Agenda.

Let’s take a look at Rick Poynor’s 2021 Eye on Design essay The Evolving Legacy of Ken Garland’s First Things First Manifesto, examine the later versions in 2000, 2014, and 2020, and consider how technology and graphic authorship have influenced social responsibility in design.


Following the instructions below, read and annotate the text with your classmates in our Hypothesis group COMD3504_OL08. We will not be writing reading responses this week, but rather adding comments and peer feedback to this post.

1. Open the readings

In a new tab open the essay The Evolving Legacy of Ken Garland’s First Things First Manifesto. For reference, open the original ‘First Things First’ from 1964 and the later versions in 2000, 2014, and 2020.

2. Enable Hypothesis

The reading links above will automatically open Hypothesis. Login to your account and select our COMD3504_OL08 group (IMPORTANT!) from the dropdown to make sure your annotations and highlights will be recorded in the group. See Using Hypothesis for details.

3. Consider these questions.

Here are the questions to which you should respond in this reading discussion:

  • When you compare the original version of FTF from 1964 with the later versions in 2000, 2014 and 2020, is there a central message/call to designers that hasn’t changed? What are the authors of the manifesto rejecting in the design field?
  • What stood out to you in the newest version of the First Things First manifesto, FTF 2020?
  • How did technology affect the authorship of the ‘First Things First’ manifesto over the decades?

4. Read & Annotate.

Consider the questions/prompts listed above. Start to formulate the answers to these prompts while you practice close reading of the essay with annotations. This will be part of your grade. Share at least 3 annotations in the Hypothesis group, including your questions, definitions, and ideas with your classmates. Add the tags: Social Responsibility and Discussion Week 12 to your annotations.

When you annotate be sure to define or break down any words or concepts that you do not understand.

5. Draft your Comments.

In your Research Journal, add the links to The Evolving Legacy of Ken Garland’s First Things First Manifesto by Rick Poynor in Eye on Design, the original ‘First Things First’ from 1964 by Ken Garland, and the later versions in 2000, 2014, and 2020.

Compose your thoughts about the questions/prompts above.

6. Comment and provide feedback

Add at least 5 developed comments to this Discussion post. Avoid comments like, “Yes, I agree.” Provide details on what specifically you agree with and add value to this Discussion with a follow-up question or additional observations.

Due Date(s)

Your comments and follow-up feedback on the reading discussion are due the day before the next session Sunday, December 5th, at 11:59 pm.


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  1. Nicholas Albanese

    Throughout all 4 versions of the First Thing’s First manifestos, the authors of all 4 continue the central message that designing for advertisements and designing for the sake of profit should not be seen as the only things a designer can do. Through these manifestos, they want to make the public and designers alike aware that they are capable of designing objects that enrich the public through worldly knowledge and cultural awareness. In all 4 manifestos, they want to reject the notion that designers aren’t only capable of designing to sell you something. They want to show that designers have the ability to create things that can enrich peoples’ lives and change society for the better. They are calling for the public to recognize this fact and they are providing a call to action for designers to take the step and create works that address and tackle some of the worlds’ biggest problems like climate change, systemic racism, and racial justice.

    In the 2020 version of the FTF manifesto, what stood out to me the most was the tone of the language used within the manifesto. Compared to the previous versions, the language in this version reads as more urgent and aggressive. The use of a rhyme scheme makes the beginning paragraphs read like slam poetry that hits at the anti-capitalist core of the previous manifestos. Through its use of this rhyme scheme, it can more easily illustrate just how much worse big tech has gotten in terms of selling and using personal data and how uncontrolled capitalism has damaged peoples and the environment alike. They also use words like “imperative” and “urgent” to emphasize just how important it is that design addresses our world’s current problems and betters humanity through empathy.

    In the first FTF manifesto, the only available communication technologies were through radio, television and print. Thus, the first manifesto was spread through print and word of mouth. With the 2000 version of the manifesto, the internet was still in its infancy. However, the manifesto still managed to be spread internationally throughout various different book and magazine outlets. It was a message communicated by an international team of designers. With the 2014 and 2020 versions of the manifesto, the internet had become widespread and almost everybody had access to an internet connection. With this, the manifesto was able to spread globally and be signed by people on an international level.

    • Zi Hang Lian

      I agree with most of your points about the FTF Manifesto. The fact they made the Manifesto to encourage Graphic Designers to improve our world is a good thing. To them, the Manifesto’s like their bible or rules they have to follow. I believe with further improvement to the FTF Manifesto in the future, we’ll be able to achieve higher platforms.

    • bryanmendez

      The FTF call to people and the way it is spread now through the use of the internet shows how the times have evolved and how the FTF is evolving.

    • rahel lehar

      i think the globalization of the FTF manifesto helped it to be taken more seriously

      • Nicholas Albanese

        Definitely. The use of the internet for both the 2014 and 2020 manifestos helped to spread the manifesto quicker and reach more designers across the world. The fact that there were even different languages available for the 2020 manifestos goes to show how much these designers want the manifesto to reach designers both big and small across the world and not just a handful of elite/revered designers.

      • SimonWill21

        Yeah True, it’s pretty much a Strength number kind of thing, more people saw the large support the manifesto was getting and that may have convinced many of them.

    • SimonWill21

      I agree with the rhyme scheme point and the effect it gave off on the whole manifesto. To add I also feel like they used that style to relate to Millennials or younger designers, so they were trying to be “hip” or “cool” in a way as well.

  2. Zi Hang Lian

    Looking at all versions of the FTF, the main focus for all the versions is advertisement. Each Manifesto is shown publicly to the world to see and all the Manifestos want us to know the designers are capable of creating products that benefit the world worded in different ways. All the Manifesto rejected the fact that the products that designers created are used for the purpose of just selling the product. These Manifesto rejects taking advantage of the consumers and believes that designers are creative and they help contribute to this world.

    What stood out to me in the 2020 version of the FTF Manifesto was the diversity of people who signed the Manifesto. Ever since the 2014 FTF Manifesto, the diversity of people who signed the Manifesto has increased since then. What’s surprising is that the 2020 FTF Manifesto has a language option so the other designers who don’t speak English know what the Manifesto is about and more and more people have signed the Manifesto. The signatures in the 2020 FTF Manifesto is way longer than the older version of the Manifesto. This part stood out to me because many people are helping to contribute to the world and make it a better place.

    The FTF Manifesto has improved tremendously throughout the years. The older version of the FTF Manifesto, 1964 and 2000, uses the form of print and radio to convey their Manifesto. The recent FTF Manifesto, 2014 and 2021, use the Internet and social media to convey their Manifesto. Looking back at the older Manifesto, you’ll feel old. You’ll feel that it has been a long time since looking at it. Looking at the newer Manifesto, you’ll realize we’re evolving and we’ll continue to rise to a higher platform. Now we have technology on our side, we can connect and collaborate with the other designers faster.

    • rahel lehar

      Do you think it will be possible in the future for necessary fields like medical, healthy foods, education and more to outweigh useless things like tik tok, toilet lights, and crap you don’t need?

      • Zi Hang Lian

        Well, I say it depends. In most cases, I don’t think so. We need those things in order to survive. For example, in the worst case that you get badly injured, your medical plan cover for that. Well, we don’t necessary need education as long as you can teach yourself the skills to do although education is highly recommended.

        However, I can see why stuff like Tiktok, Twitter, and other social media and items may outweigh the important stuff in the future. In social media, you can create and post stuff. If people found your content interesting, you’ll gain follow and get popular over time. Also, items like game can relieve our boredom or it can even turn into a job. Like Faze Clan.

    • bryanmendez

      The 2020 FTF version is more diverse and tries to accommodate for all by using different languages and being online in general its a amazing difference from the 1964 version

    • Nicholas Albanese

      I agree. Thanks to the internet and social media, these designers are able to spread a message that artists around the world can empathize with. One thing I thought was interesting when looking through all 4 versions of the manifesto was who signed it. During the 1964 and 2000 versions of the manifesto, only famous, revered designers like Milton Glaser signed it. However, the 2014 and 2020 manifestos are filled with designers of all backgrounds and fame levels. It’s empowering to designers who have a smaller following and it gives them a way to be heard and seen to a worldwide audience.

      • Hadassah

        Now that you say that. That’s true. I noticed that when looking at the signatures. It’s great that this version was shared with designers all over the world with different cultural backgrounds and significance.

    • SimonWill21

      Great point about the 2020 version of the Manifesto having the option of another language, I didn’t notice that at first. But yeah that also definingly played a part in why they gained more support in that version.

    • Eric Sukhdeo

      That is true that looking at the older versions would feel dated and it’s good that people would take the time to redo them. Interesting thought here if the newer versions were never made then the 2000 version would still be the newest. Would it still be dated?

  3. rahel lehar

    In all manifesto versions, the central message that hasn’t changed is designing for only commercial use and solely for money is bad. The authors want to design for other useful and necessary things like social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programs, films, etc. They are rejecting people that say they can or should only design for advertising and commercial purposes.

    What stood out to me in the 2020 version was this quote “We market unhealthy body images and diets; products and apps that propagate social isolation and depression; the consumption of unbalanced food systems; we sell pills to pop, tiks to tok, and a scrolling feed that never stops… and then the desire to consume it all over again and again”. It shows all the current problems like social media addiction are being advertised instead of necessary things. It shows that the constant desire to flood ourselves with wants over needs is a never-ending cycle.

    The first and 2000 manifestos used print, tv, and radio. The 2000 one also had physical channels such as magazines and books. 2014 and 2020 versions used the same medium which is the internet so designers from all over the world could sign it and publicize it globally.

    • Zi Hang Lian

      Well, advertising is a big thing, after all. Designers do want to sell their product and make money. Even if it’s stuff like a fanart drawing, merch, or a product decorate with their own art style.

      Most of the time, it does benefit both side. People get to buy the stuff they want and you get the profit from them buying it. Most of the times, everything works out.

      • Nicholas Albanese

        These designers were never advocating for the complete destruction of advertisement as a whole. They state in all of their manifestos that they believe advertising is an important thing and that designers can choose to work in that field if they choose. However, what they do have a problem with is rabid consumer culture and advertising being used to sell people things they might not even need like diet pills and social media. They want designers to come together and revolutionize design by creating things that will better humanity as a whole.

        • Zi Hang Lian

          I know. The Manifesto wasn’t meant to be advertising. I just want to make a point about advertising. That’s all.

    • bryanmendez

      do you think they only want to reject advertising and commercial design or is it design that is for consumers that should be rejected

      • rahel lehar

        i dont think designers wanna “reject” commercial design. They just want more design of other areas so that they’re not just limited to commercial design

    • Nicholas Albanese

      I think the 2020 version of the manifesto really emphasizes just how much capitalism has accelerated and how much more powerful advertising has gotten. Ever since the first manifesto, advertising has only grown in power and we live in an age where multi-million dollar corporations like Amazon, Walmart, and Target are advertising us and supplying us with most of our jobs. Advertising has continued to convince us to buy into and consume things that we don’t need instead of the things that we do. It’s only because of movements such as Black Lives Matter and the people who signed this manifesto that a true change for the better begins to happen.

    • Eric Sukhdeo

      When I was looking at what stood out to me in the 2020 version I was more so looking at the design aspect of the page not much so the actual words. It’s great how you are able to notice these words in your second paragraph and be able to point them out.

  4. bryanmendez

    In the original version of FTF from 1964 and the following version from 2000, 2014, and even the most recent one in 2020 there is a central message that seemingly hasn’t changed and it is a call to all designers to go beyond just the simple design for the consumer and they should design for change. The thing that the authors are rejecting in the design field is the designs that don’t embrace change or are just mundane and try to take advantage of the consumer and the environment.
    The thing that stood out to me in the 2020 version of First Things First Manifesto is the way it talks about capitalism and how it is directly interlinked with climate change and racial injustice.
    The way that technology has affected the authorship of the First Things First Manifesto over the decades is the way it started with 26 designers that had signed the first manifesto then moved to 33 with its second iteration in 2000 but even then it was posted on the internet and had added more signatures. Finally, we see 2014 and 2020 manifestos published online and thousands have signed it almost sharing authorship.

    • rahel lehar

      I agree most designs are just mundane and only for consumerism. Unfortunately, it’ll always be like that. That could change only if design for change or for the betterment of society is promoted more than consumerism.

      • Eric Sukhdeo

        I agree because while the idea of designing for the world sounds nice, it’s most likely won’t pay the bills. So most designers would go the consumerism route because they wouldn’t be able to design in the first place if they couldn’t take care of themselves.

    • Nicholas Albanese

      I admired the critique of capitalism and how it damages people and the environment. Despite living my entire life in capitalism, I believe we can still point out the flaws in a system like this and help make changes to better it. Unfortunately, the growing greed of giant corporations has only fueled further damage to underprivileged people and the world around us. While people like Jeff Bezos open up new Amazon factories, mom-and-pop shops are being forced to shut down. Designers HAVE to come together to create design that advocates for a better way of living that supports small businesses and promotes local and worldly betterment.

    • Zi Hang Lian

      Definitely, the Manifesto is like the bible to the designers. Added more rules and following them. This could change the whole perspective on consumerism.

      • Hadassah

        That’s funny that you compared it to the bible. But you’re right this example can change the perspective of consumerism.

    • SimonWill21

      Yes, there are many designers out there who make all of their work more consumer-focused, I feel like most designers will have to go through that phase at the beginning of their career.

    • Eric Sukhdeo

      Looking at your last paragraph, with more names being added to the list it makes it all that more important to find the most recent version of any article so at to get not your information wrong and stay up to date.

  5. SimonWill21

    When you compare the original version of the FTF with the later versions, they all have a recurring idea of trying to convince designers to focus their profession more on environmental, social, and societal issues. The authors are rejecting the idea of just being a designer who does commercial work since they believe these types of works have no meaning or in her words “inessential at best”.
    In the FTF 2020 version, something that stood out was when they began talking about social issues, specifically body image and diets, and then they started talking about social media apps. They point out that these things can lead to issues such as depression and addiction.
    Technology has allowed the number of people who support these ideas to increase. The first FTF only had 22 visual commentators. However, the newest version now has over 1600 designers across the world. This is probably due to the fact that the 2020 version is a much more digital version that allows people from all over the world to access it.

    • Zi Hang Lian

      Very true. The Manifesto is used to make the world a better place. It’s interesting how you bring in the topic of social media.

    • Eric Sukhdeo

      It would make sense that the 2020 version would talk more about social media while it exists back in the early 2000s its just that wasn’t that popular or as important as we see it today.

    • Hadassah

      That’s true. It’s cool how they had around 1600 signatures to add on the FTF 2020 version. It shows how technology has an affect on the FTF versions. This helped designers to create and be inspired by Garland’s words and reflect it back to what’s going on this new generation.

  6. Eric Sukhdeo

    After taking a look at all four versions of “First things First” I can see that the general message of designers is much more than what capitalism proceeds us to be. They all say that designers can design more for the world rather than just themselves and the clients. This even extends to a sort of to-do list in the 2020 version which states more clearly what needs to be accomplished. It’s about engaging all types of designers to reinvent the wheel and design what we can not just design for ourselves but for the entire world. Use our skills, not for only commercial gain but to get the bigger picture and contribute to that. So the message still generally stays the same with a couple of words being changed but not affecting the overall morale.

    What Mainly stood out to me in FTF 2020’s version was the color shift at first. Jumping from tab to tab seeing a white background with black text, then all of a sudden using a black background and white text truly makes it stick out among the rest. A couple of other things were the fact that the names moved to the bottom and the “What We Must Do” list was added. I assume this is because the names would ruin the design of the article with having a list of names in the middle and they need to make this article as clear as they can for any designer or the general person reading it to know the message. Lastly, they changed the heading for the title to better fit this style and color swap along with being able to change the language here which makes it able to reach more people, which goes along with its message.

    I would say technology affects the authorship of this manifesto over the decade because you need to credit the first person who made but then there is also credit that needs to be shown for whoever designed this version. This now brings up the topic of when you’re citing this source do only include the person who wrote this or are you citing the person who did the redesign? That’s where the confusion would lie, so who is really the author for the later versions?

    • Hadassah

      You’re right because there are things that are occurring out there and people are not really aware of what’s going on. Being designers we should be able to get together and create designs that can help people instead of just doing it for ourselves and clients.

  7. Hadassah

    It hasn’t changed from all these versions because the message/call to designers was to make them be aware that their talents and skills are being wasted on the companies who encourage consumers to buy their products. Consumers don’t know how these products can negatively affect them. It’s all about money and it doesn’t really help the consumer in any other way. Taking part of this shows that this is how designers or design is viewed by people.
    What stood out to me on the newest version of the FTF 2020 would be that they discussed how climate change is affecting everyone. Doesn’t matter what race, class, region you’re in. Another thing is the focus on being empathetic about the situations that are occurring out there and how they can utilize their skills to solve and design to bring that awareness to people and create solutions to complex problems.
    In the 1964 FTF, this was made during the time prints and books were commonly used. And the internet wasn’t around until the early 1980’s. So it really came a long way. Now since it’s updated, people are able to translate and share it with others in different countries. Since there’s an updated version of the FTF, it would resonate more with the gen z audience because there are events that are taking place now like climate change, fast consumerism and so forth.

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