Manifesto idealism betrays distaste over commercialism

It’s good to see creative and social idealism still at work in the design industry with the First Things First Manifesto 2000 (DW 17 September). But I have a suspicion that beneath the idealism lurks something deeper and more complex – a fundamental unease with being involved in commerce.

As such, this mainly British phenomenon harks back to the days when dowager duchesses said things like: “But my dear, he’s in trade’.

There’s nothing wrong with commercial involvement. Commerce supplies people with things that they need as well as things that they want. I have known design projects that have created so much demand that factories have been opened in the Far East, and the poor given a job as a result. People need sanpro products – so where’s the shame in designing them?

I applaud the spirit that drives the writers of the manifesto to wish to “explore a new kind of meaning”. But I think they are confused. Is that what they really wanted – or are they just culturally opposed to the world of “dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents and cigarettes”? When we smart, urban, middle-class designers find the butt-toner consumer rather amusing, are we so very different from the dowager duchess?

Simon Sholl

Planning and development director

Siebert Head

London SW

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