I remember learning about the original First Things First Manifesto from 1964 in Design History class at Emily Carr University, during the early days of my design education. The manifesto inspired me. It made design more exciting, to be connected to issues that make the world a better place. I was motivated to continue this work, and I believe this set the stage for the business I’d create later.
An updated manifesto was written in 2000, led by inspired conversations at Adbusters. Highlighting the urgent need for designers to consider their values in their efforts cemented for me that many designers don’t think this way. While some students were having endless debates in school about whether design should actually be considered art if the designer didn’t follow the client brief… I was up late thinking about our responsibility as design professionals. I signed the manifesto when it was re-released again in 2014—there were so many names on the list, though, it was hard to find mine! Nonetheless, the manifesto cemented the connection between ethics and business for me, which I’ve continued carrying forward.
“There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention.”First Things First 2000 Manifesto
an ethical focus
When I started Backyard Creative, I focused on how I could make an impact locally, in my own “backyard”. I’ve learned over the years that one’s values rarely change. It’s what we do with these values and how we activate them that are much more important. Recently, we created a Backyard Creative manifesto poster to inspire our collaborators, so we can stay motivated by our shared values. Sarita designed it and had it screen printed locally by Uff Screen Printing.
I came across the newly formed Climate Designers while our poster was in production. Feeling inspired, I applied to be a part of this global collective. I soon learned they were working on a brand new revision of the First things First manifesto 2020! They’ve focused on clarifying the commitment into digestible actions, which I really appreciate. Design isn’t just about making things beautiful, it’s about choosing to amplify ideas and mobilize action.
“Climate change is critically entangled with class, race, and gender-based dominance, we can no longer push for merely sustainability, but must create new systems that undo and heal what’s been done.”First Things First Manifesto 2020
recommit to “better”
Given 2020 has been full of challenges, the updated manifesto has truly re-inspired me to recommit and refocus my own efforts. I hope it’ll have the same effect on you. Reach out, let me know what you think!