Generally, I believe that the First things first manifesto (2000) is a valid critique of consumerism that has seeped into the field of design. It seems to come from a place of concern for the use of design for ‘good’. I agree that this is a responsibility that each citizen, designer or not, should take on in order to make the world a better place. Advertising has created semiotic hyperrealities to sell dreams and appeal to the materialism of consumers. This was a major aspect of Jean Baudrillard’s theory expanding on the concept of simulacra (Mann, n.d.)
For example, car advertisements such as the one shown above imply that where there’s a Jeep, there’s the potential to explore this beautiful scenery. It urges the consumer that this is a requirement for progress and ultimately for happiness (“Where there’s a Jeep, there’s a road”). Nothing is unattainable with this car. The idea of design in advertising isn’t just to sell the product, it’s to sell a dream – one that is often unachievable by the average Joe. This can lead to unhappy and unfulfilled lives. Ideally, the field of design should not only be a part of innovation, but for social progress too.
However, advertising isn’t just used for things that are “inessential at best”. As consumers, we purchase museum tickets, visit art galleries and movie theatres broadening our worldview further. We live in a diverse world with a variety of passions and interests. In short, we don’t live single-issue lives so who decides what is worthy and unworthy?
Bierut’s criticisms of the manifesto are quite cynical, to the point where he has dissected each aspect of it and criticised it. However, some aspects of the argument are fair. The idea that “Manifestos are simple, life is complicated” really resonated with me. Overall, I believe it is important to strike a healthy balance between idealism and realism and this is not a easy process, but rather one which we constantly learn through our lives.
Bierut, M. (2007). Ten footnotes to a manifesto. In M. Bierut (2007), 79 short essays on design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Jeep (2017). Bridge, 2 – “Where there’s a Jeep there’s a road”. [image] Retrieved July 13, 2017, from: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/jeep_bridge_2
Mann, D. (n.d.). Jean Baudrillard A Very Short Introduction. [online] Western University Canada. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://publish.uwo.ca/~dmann/baudrillard1.htm