Monday, 11 November 2013

Study Task 5


Using the texts Garland, K. 'The First Things First Manifesto (1964); Poyner, Lasn et al (2000) ' The First Things First Manifesto 2000'; Poyner, R. (2000) 'First Things First Revisited' and Beirut, M. (2007) 'Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto' write a triangulated critical analysis of two media images (works of graphic design / advert / TV commercial / publicity poster / magazine cover / news story). This analysis should discuss the ethical role of the designer, and ideally should compare one example of 'ethical' design with another 'unethical' one.

Make sure that you compare the opinions of the four different writers and not simply quote but draw out subtle similarities and differences in their positions. Refer to the writing guide on eStudio for help constructing a triangulated written argument.

Unethical Design

Ethical Design

There is an ongoing debate about the purpose of Advertising and Graphic Design. It has been suggested that consumer selling methods have become unnecessary and in some cases unethical. In the First Things First Manifesto, Ken Garland, (1964), Rick Poynor, (2000) and Michael Bierut, (2007) have considered the current nature of advertising. These three variations have focused on the importance of ethical design, and how unethical design has become a distraction from the more important matters. For example, in the 1964 First Things First Manifesto, Ken Garland states: "We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, photographers and students who have been brought up in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us in the most lucrative, effective and desirable means of using our talents." This implies that advertising has had a strong influence over graphic designers, photographers, and students in general. By referring to the 'apparatus of advertising' as being persistently presented to us (graphic designers, photographers and students) Garland's tone seems unimpressed. It implies these advertising methods are not necessarily welcomed, but instead forced on the audience.  

Garland, Poynor and Bierut all share the same views about the large focus on sales point and commercial work. Garland highlights a few of these: 'cat food, stomach powders, detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste, aftershave lotion, slimming diets...' Garland, K (1964). These products outlined by Garland are all aimed towards a middle-class, wealthy target audience. By mentioning cat food as the first item on his list, it is almost like he is mocking commercial advertising. Rick Poynor supports Garland's focus on the general commercial focus of advertising. Although he refers to different products, there is still a sense of negative attitude and mocking nature towards these products. Poynor states: 'Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dig biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This in turn, is how the world perceives design.' Poynor's analysis is similar to Garland, implying that advertising has caused people to assume that graphic design is just a method to make money and sell products. This is supposedly due to the heavy impact of advertising. 

In Michael Bierut's 'Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto', he assesses the content outlined in Poynor's First Things First Manifesto (2000). He challenges Poynor (and Garland's) choice of products asking: 'Waht makes dog biscuit packaging and unworthy object of our attention, as opposed to, say, a museum catalog or some other cultural project?' He then questions Poynor's manifesto claiming 'Don't dashund owners deserve the same measure of beauty, wit, or intelligence in their lives?' Bierut then continues: 'If today's principled designers truly believe the role of commercial work is simply to "pay the bills," it should be pointed out it was not "always" so. Bierut, M (2007). From Bierut's observation, a debate is formed around the perception of commercial work in comparison to graphic design methods. Bierut's analysis infers that these two elements are not as different as they have been made out to be.

Although Garland and Poynor do not seem in favour of commercial advertising methods, they are not suggesting it should be removed. Garland concludes his manifesto stating: 'We do not advocate the abolition of high pressure consumer advertising: this is not feasible. Nor do we want to take any of the fun out of life. But we are proposing a reversal of priorities in favour of the more useful and more lasting forms of communication.' By this, Garland is implying that designers direct their priorities away from matters which ' contribute little or nothing to our national properity.' Garland, K (1964). By this, he is drawing a line between ethical design, and unethical design and advertising. Poynor supports this, proposing ' a reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication - a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning.' Bierut, in footnote number 9: 'a new kind of meaning,' directly responds to this comment suggests: 'What would happen if  instead of "a new kind of meaning", the single most ambiguous phrase in the manifesto, we substituted "meaning," period? For injecting meaning to every part of their work is what Kalman and Eames and designers like them have always done best. 

In conclusion, it can be argued that Garland and Poyner's two versions of the First Things First Manifesto support one another. Although Poynor has revisited the manifesto 36 years later than the original written by Garland, there are many similarities between the two variations. Both manifestos suggest that advertising has highly impacted all other forms of design, in a demanding and 'bombarding' manner. In order to resolve this, they have suggested a reversal of priorities, implying that topics such as 'cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools...' require our attention and help more urgently. However, Bierut implies that this is not necessarily fair, justified or correct. He understands the manifesto's intentions, but keeps a consistent contradicting tone towards everything it stands for. Bierut concludes: 'For in the end, the promise of design is about a simple thing: common decency.'

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