Rebecca Elms
Graphic design student in London
My notebook for current work, reflections & things I am interested in.

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My webpage showing my manifesto points. Floating header and navigation bar. A Manifesto for social responcibility.

View webpage here


A poster created as part of research in manifestos, the workshop was run by Ken Garland and focused on positive outcomes of manifestos and also getting your ideas across in a few words. This poster is a response to current uprising and revolt in eastern Europe, it requests a positive outcome, reminding people to question and be curious to discover new things and create change.

Initial ideas and development of Art-speak publication

Experimentation with colour and size using simple graphic pattern and type (Futura)


Main Point

These are my current manifesto points which will be discussed in my essay:

- Communicate truthfully

Design is a powerful tool in communicating an idea, and can easily used to manipulate the viewer. As First Things First manifesto states, design is commonly seen as a tool to promote selling a product and generating a profit, rather than fairly communicating, informing, entertaining, expressing, educating or transforming. (Stop, think, go, do - BOOK.) Communicating truthfully means being honest in your design, with sincere motives. Presenting the viewer with the truth and an element of reality.

- Produce work to your best ability

Even though there is always more learning to do, produce work to the best standard that it can be. This is not only to approve skills but also to be accountable to the viewer or the client. Design needs to be taken seriously and any project should be completed with a wholehearted view of the outcome and the work it is a part of. If this cannot be done, maybe there needs to be a questioning of the role in completing that work. If other people’s views, rights or health are at risk of being damaged by incomplete or low quality design, a better solution needs to be considered.

-       Consider others (views and needs)

Design never affects just one person; there are always multiple people involved in the process or who will be affected by the end outcome. This could include the designer, collaborative partners, the client or the audience. In any case other views should be considered and there should be some balance between motives. Focusing a design project mainly on clients needs could lead to work focused on raising profits or advertising which might unfairly pay a designer and convince audience they need something they dont really need. Or an audience based design project could lead more to community development or participation, but if the designer focuses on their own idea of the project the client could be badly represented. What happens if the designer focuses too strongly on their views or needs and creates a kind of self-indulgent work?

-       Test it

There is always a purpose behind designing something and a designer should take responsibility to ensure that design is meeting those needs. Testing and gaining feedback in the creative process is very valuable step in communicate successfully. Should we test design to see if everyone thinks it is ‘good’? or if everyone likes the fonts? This is probably unrealistic, but maybe at the beginning of the project the designer needs to really highlight what this design outcome needs to do, and create a test to make sure it meets these needs.

-       Create Beauty

Beautiful design doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is just nice to look at, what exactly ‘beautiful design’ is can be debated and disagreed upon because it can be viewed in different ways. Often design which is strongly beneficial to basic human needs can be seen as beautiful, or design in which aesthetics and ethics and working together. During the modernist period their manifesto was focused on construction and building things that would benefit society through focusing on simple clean design and less on decoration from the art-deco period. Function can be beautiful but a balance between the two, and selection of function and aesthetic for each individual project needs.

-       Build up, don’t break down

Spend time creating design that will really benefit society or a particular audience, rather than continuing to build into consumerism and mass marketing advertising which focuses on financial growth and overconsumption. This might be more rewarding because you are finding a solution for a problem closer to your own community. Working with community groups or more local organisations will build up strong connections if done properly (Designing for social change BOOK)

-       Question everything?

This tip is often given to designers in design manifesto’s, I wanted to include it in mine because I think curiosity is important in my design practise to keep in touch with the things around me and society. Seeking just one thing in particular often leads to swaying too much one way; questioning everything helps keep a balanced view of responsibility as a design and how they might change the society around me, and many other things that are relevant to design practise. It also means you are always learning and finding new things


I have been asked to propose a design to fit a brief set up REcreative which is a group for yound people interested in art, linked to galleries in London. The project is called Art-Speak and they are looking for a publication which can be given out at freshers fairs and other events. The content for the publication is different definitions of common art-speak which confuses alot of people. These definitions were collected from artists, young people, writers etc.

They asked the publication to be something which people could add too and carry around with them so I decided to produce some small booklet with room for notes and doodles. I need to make the design visually interesting yet simple so that the reader isn’t confused.


I have been thinking about the manifesto and how it can help me in my own practice. I’ve decided to write my manifesto about my own social issue policies of design and how we should consider the impact our work has on others. 

"Graphic Design is the most universal of all the arts. It is all around us, explaining, decorating, identifying. Imposing meaning on the world." from What is Graphic Design by Quentin Newark

As First Things First manifesto states we have a choice as to what we design and who for. How can we make sure we are having the right impact on the world? Leaving it a better place, where design has helped shape our culture and society.


Ken Garland — First Things First manifesto, 1964.


A few designers that I’ve spoken to swear that this is the eventual fate of students who ramble on about responsibility. Harsh - but somewhat undeniable. How does one practice responsibility when our livelihoods are at stake?