Ken Garland - blog

FIRST THINGS FIRST

While half the nation has packed itself off to the beaches of Europe the HERRON + CO studio keeps going. This summer I’ll be launching multiple projects – with a global target audience – for my clients in the Sheffield City Region. You may think a summer spent grafting is a disaster, but for me, it feels great. I love it. Here’s why;

After working in agencies that make ‘throwaway’ design for consumer brands I wanted to commit to bringing my knowledge and skills to the unglamorous industries that power Sheffield – the steelmakers, foundries, manufacturers, engineers and distribution companies. The real employers.

I knew that I could help them thrive by communicating what they did best to a new global audience, and if they prospered they would continue to employ people, who in turn would spend their wages where they lived. Sheffield. Which is where I live.

I want to do more than just sell consumer goods, that would sell well anyway. I prefer to do work that will make a bigger impact, a genuine difference. It seems that every design company collectively dreams of working with the likes of Nike, Coca-Cola or Sainsbury’s. Why don’t I? Well, a man called Ken Garland has a lot to answer for.

In 1964 Ken Garland published a manifesto along with 20 other designers, photographers and students called First Things First. In it, they lashed out against the fast-paced and time-consuming productions of mainstream advertising. Its purpose was to focus design on less trivial matters, such as education and public service tasks that promoted the betterment of society.

Here’s the complete manifesto (don’t worry, it’s short and sweet and a great read). I’ve replaced the term ‘advertising’ with the modern concept of ‘branding’ – hopefully you’ll see why it’s as relevant to us today as it was back then.

 

A MANIFESTO

We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, photographers and students who have been brought up in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of branding have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable means of using our talents. We have been bombarded with publications devoted to this belief, applauding the work of those who have flogged their skill and imagination to sell such things as:

cat food, stomach powders, detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste, aftershave lotion, beforeshave lotion, slimming diets, fattening diets, deodorants, fizzy water, cigarettes, roll-ons, pull-ons and slip-ons.

By far the greatest time and effort of those working in the branding industry are wasted on these trivial purposes, which contribute little or nothing to our national prosperity.

In common with an increasing number of the general public, we have reached a saturation point in which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise. We think that there are other things more worth using our skill and experience on. There are signs for streets and buildings, books and periodicals, catalogues, instructional manuals, industrial photography, educational aids, films, television features, scientific and industrial publications and all other media through which we promote our trade, our education, our culture and our awareness of the world.

We do not advocate the abolition of high pressure consumer branding: 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. We hope that our society will tire of gimmick merchants, status salesmen and hidden persuaders, and that the prior call on our skills will be for worthwhile purposes. With this in mind, we propose to share our experience and opinions, and to make them available to colleagues, students and others who may be interested.”

 

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