Manifesto / as a catalyst for design activism

The manifesto is commonly defined as a call-to- arms, a public declaration of principles and intentions and a powerful purveyor of ideology (Helfand, 2001). For the Italian Futurists, typographic experimentation allowed language itself to be a tool for attacking, disrupting or subverting convention. For the designer, the manifesto may be used to give more meaning to our present way of life (Garland, 1964), to “deliberately manipulate the public view” (Cawes, 2001) or to playfully blast and bless the cultural landscape. My hypothesis is that the manifesto is not only a forum for design debate, a framework for a visual argument, but also a script for action. From the pamphleteers of 17th century England designers have appropriated the most effective means of communicating an urgent message to the masses, forming a sphere of popular public opinion. Whether online or in print the manifesto demands a re-envisioning both message and medium, in this context a ‘Manifesto for Sustainable Design’ project given to first year graphic design degree students. By embedding notions of sustainability, responsibility and action into their design curriculum the manifesto has enabled individual students to engage in incendiary debate in a non-dogmatic format.

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