First Thing First

In early 19th century consumer goods were formerly been made by artisans, craftsmen or women and artists in factories. However, the production process of these goods are no longer made in the same way. In the traditional way of production, employees were divided into different specialisation, which they were specialists in a particular part of the entire production, repeating the same job over and over again.

KEY TERM: MASS REPRODUCTION – Evidence of Capitalism

Reactions to industrial society

Arts and Crafts Movement


Arts and Crafts Movement (

  • Arts and Crafts Movement (1880s Britain, spreads to US, Europe, Japan)
    • Purpose of the movement:
      • Well designed buildings, furniture and household goods would improve society (high standard of living and quality of life)
      • The material environment affected the moral fibre of society
      • Workers making beautiful objects and the pleasure of craft
      • Both design and working lives had been better in the past

Another movement different from Arts and Crafts Movement was developed afterwards

Industrial Modernism

e.g. The Bauhaus

  • As in the reform movements that had proceeded the Bauhaus, what mattered was to find response to industrialisation and its effects.
  • The artistic avant-garde that gathered at the Bauhaus wanted to become a force capable of changing society and hoped to form a modern type of humanoid being and environment.
  • They embraced functionalism (functional and useful), geometric formalism (visually modern), and machine aesthetics.
  • The designs created from Bauhaus were made to improve the society by making it more progressive and democratic.

In a transdisciplinarity community of work, the utopian modern world was to be conceived and created.

The formal experiments in the early 20th century were motivated by a belief in the power of design as an agent of social change: to make people’s lives better.

A lot of times designers act as shapers and manipulators of public opinions. For example, the nature of propaganda, or during war times.

During war times, posters were designed in a style that encouraged people to join arm force, with a heavy use of elements of propaganda.

John Heartfield 1930 – Whoever Reads Bourgeois Newspaper Becomes Blind and Deaf: Away with These Stultifying Bandages

John Hearfield purposely changed his name from German to English to segregate himself from his home country.

Technique used by John: refiguring photomontage and constructing new textual narratives.

His work became the singular, most important example of counter-propaganda to the hegemonic media apparatus of the thirties. (Against propaganda, visually showing the society the truth that the propagandas were trying to cover). (Propagandas during war times.)

Propaganda from the Nazis. (from posters, photos of architecture, to films)

Corporate identities – designs are minimised and reduced.

“During this period design has been called upon to establish corporate identities firmly in the public mind and to motivate the development of ever-hungry consumer markets.” – (Ewen, S, 1990.)

First things first – A manifesto, published by Kan Garland

Culture Jamming (guerrilla communication): A tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream

  • anti-sweatshop culture jamming (1990s)
  • war on want adidas campaign

First thing first was renewed in 1999, entitled First Things First 2000. It took a more adversarial stance than the original and expanded the original manifesto’s concerns, most notably climate change.


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