50 Manifestos

13Aug07

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Over at ICON magazine, they have a list of manifestos written by 50 of the world’s leading designers. Many different disciplines are represented, from graphic designers to architects. There’s Peter Saville, the famous record sleeve designer “Creative people have to believe in the value of their work”. Stefan Sagmeister is there of course “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget”. And this gem from Committee “Beware of fashion: engine of shit and transcendent wonder!

That last one reminds me of the first manifesto I ever read, the 1909 Futurist Manifesto by Filippo Marinetti. It was at the time all complete nonsense, but I loved the typography that it spawned (not that I knew what typography was when I was in high school). The cover for Marinetti’s war poem Zang Tum Tum is still one of my favourite pieces of type. In the poem he depicted the chaos of battle by using different sizes and weights of type to create different speeds, noises and moods. “The work was a direct attack on the nervous system, bypassing the intellect… where the reader understands the meaning of the poem as much by its appearance as by its literary content” (Alan Bartram). Now THAT’S something to aspire to in your design.

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What the Futurists called for in 1909, was similar to the calls of many art movements at the start of the last century – the destruction of outdated thinking about vision and language. Their revolutionary fervour demanded social change, and their typographic creativity sought to smash tired bourgeois ideals of balance and harmony. Damn I wish that art and design could still fuel such passion.

Manifestos came back into vogue in the design world in 2000 when many designers (including Sagmeister) signed a rewritten version of a 1964 manifesto called the First Things First Manifesto. It called for designers to be more social in their outlook and to reject jobs for inessential products and services. You can read it here. A grand and important manifesto, yet it had pretty boring typography. Shame.

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