First Things First Manifesto

May 12, 2020

The First Things First design manifesto was a defining document in the design world in the 1960s, so much so that it's been refreshed over the years (2000, 2014) to represent the challenges of the current age. With Earth Day being celebrated for the 50th year, yet another iteration (F1rst Things F1rst) was written this year.

This latest version lined up so well with a version I wrote last year as part of a SCAD class project that I thought I would post that here in solidarity. A designed poster also accompanied this assignment, which is included at the end.

A Design Manifesto

Designers as individuals are responsible for the unfortunate state of our society.

While previous generations of designers have been concerned with industry's tangible outputs and the belief that those outputs have been what contribute to an empty culture, the core responsibility lies with individuals driving that industry. Individuals embrace questionable behaviors. Individuals drive the design profession toward unethical practices on a daily basis. Through individual designers' actions, the profession as a whole is robbed of focus, wallows in false narratives, and drives excessive consumption. In turn, our society suffers.

I have a lack of focus
I'm too obsessed with the latest thing, the latest process, the latest tool to drive the process. So much precious time is spent thinking around the problem, I never solve it.

I line up to carry dirty water
Big companies do bad things, but I'm always there to rebrand and distract from the core issues.

I perpetuate mindless consumption
Design drives us to buy useless goods in the physical space and collect empty likes in the digital space.

I must do more than point out the problems. I must work toward self-help, pushing back on these questionable norms.

Individual responsibility forms the whole. As one of us changes our actions, others take note. A steadfast persistence guides more of us toward a better path. Eventually, collectively, we create positive change through thoughtful and ethical design choices.

I promise to give myself proper time, space, and research to work through problems and offer solutions. I promise to release myself from cleaning up corporate mistakes, pushing back on companies to own their missteps. I promise to provide users with the experience they deserve, freeing them from the maze of consumption.

Join me in keeping these promises, creating a healthy community of designers, and ultimately, building a healthy world to live in.

Cale Mooth

Manifest poster