Headshot of Emily
Posted by Emily
on 30 January 2019

First things first

Recently, I went to the York St. John 2018 Design Symposium, which featured talks from some great designers. It’s not often I enjoy every speaker at an event but I honestly found each one relatable and to the point. I took something different from each person, one of which was the great Ken Garland. His ‘first things first’ manifesto is one I have referred back to a lot in my studies and work as a Designer.

In his talk, Ken said “always be a child” as it is our most creative time. I found this really important because it is a time when we are most experimental, and do things purely because we want to, not because we’ve thought about them and how they might be perceived by other people.

A manifesto to me is a way of saying what you feel, frankly and succinctly. In my final year at university I wrote my own manifesto. I wasn’t aware at the time but now I look back and can see clearly that the success of it was born out of the creative child in me, combined with my adult feelings towards graphic design. The brief was to define ‘Where is: here?’, to which I responded with: Deceleration. In a nutshell: we need to slow down and appreciate typography for the craft that it is, or risk losing it to programmed machinery. To make things a bit clearer here is a rationale of my manifesto:

In 1931, Eric Gill raised the issue of conflict between industrialism and handicraftsmanship on the basis of slow typography. It suggests that we all need to slow down and appreciate typography before we are programmed to become standardised by machinery, instead of appreciating a skilful craft which I believe typography is. An essay on typography is the heart of my manifesto — rationalising and backing up the statements and applying them to the present day showing how relevant they still are over eighty years later. This piece of work gained a pass from the International Society of Typographic Designers.

 “You can argue with decisiveness but you can’t argue with indecisiveness” – Steven Heller

There are always going to be people who find a manifesto ‘preachy’. To me, I don’t think it is at all. At the Symposium via Skype Steven Heller described it as “standards that should be discussed”, which I think frames its purpose down to a T. After all, change doesn’t come from keeping quiet. Heller also said “you can argue with decisiveness but you can’t argue with indecisiveness” which really stuck with me. It’s so important to be able to make decisions. I hope to create more manifestos as I grow and develop over time as a Designer.

My manifesto is nearly 2 years old, I wonder how it’ll fare in 20 years and if it will need revisiting…