WE, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and
visual communicators who have been raised in a world in which the
techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented
to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of our
talents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the
market rewards it; a tide of books and publications reinforces it.
Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and
imagination to sell dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents,
hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light
beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has
always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it
become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This, in turn,
is how the world perceives design. The profession's time and energy
is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at
Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of
design. Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising,
marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly
endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages
that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak,
think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping
draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.
There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills.
Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our
attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns,
books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programs,
films, charitable causes and other information design projects
urgently require our expertise and help.
We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting
and democratic forms of communication - a mindshift away from
product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a
new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must
expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged
by other perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages
and resources of design.
In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for our
skills to be put to worthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global
commercial culture, their message has only grown more urgent.
Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that no more decades
will pass before it is taken to heart.
This manifesto was signed by
33 high profile designers, and Adbusters' Web site (http://www.adbusters.org/) has allowed hundreds more to add their names to it. Originally printed in Adbusters
magazine, it also appeared in Design Week
and Creative Review
in Great Britain
; I.D., Print and Communication Arts in the United States; Idea in Japan; and in Form in Germany.