First Things First Seminar

Tues 17th Jan

1-Day Project

Brief: Using research from First Things First Manifesto. Develop piece of design work that promotes and provokes the design community to take responsibility for their work and what they put into the world. E.g. poster/banner/video/animation/etc. MUST BE DIGITISED. It must relate to your observations and perceptions of Graphic Communication role in shaping the future and the discipline’s place in the world in incenting change for good.

Seminar notes:


How and why you design? – think about every decision you make.

There was 5 of us in our group. To begin with we started thinking about what sustainability within design meant for us and how consumerism changed that. For us, we wanted to go in the direction thinking about design ethically and what that meant for us. In the manifesto, it talks about how consumerism was taking over design and designers needed to take responsibility for what they are doing. For example, a lot of big companies who’s branding are really good, do a lot of things ethically that are wrong, so if as a designer you work for that company you are agreeing with and encouraging the choices they are making by enabling them to make more money.

After brainstorming a few ideas, we decided to base our target audience on young designers; people who are still in education and learning the trade. We thought that it would be quite difficult to try and convince designers who have been in the trade for a while and are making a good living out of it so we thought best to focus on young people still in education to help change the opinion of the next generation of designers. We don’t want to tell people to not go into advertising, because we understand that there is a lot of money within that sector and it can be a way to make a good living, but we want people to understand the types of companies that are out there and that they are not all ethically right. A lot of big brands use child labour and violate workers in third world countries to avoid paying a huge amount of wages/tax, in order to develop a cheap product and make a lot of money. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my name next to a company who support those things so that’s what we wanted to do within our idea to tell young people to think about the kind of companies they want to designer for.

We tried thinking of ways we could show this. We were discussing a lot of these products aren’t sustainable because they are manufactured onto materials that aren’t recyclable and how someone designing that brand would have influenced that to have happened. Our first idea was to Photoshop large consumer products onto buildings and have a billboard within a city scene to show a message about whether you’d want to design for those companies and influence unsustainable design.

The city scene idea is aimed at too wider audience as our aim isn’t to stop people from buying products who are ethically wrong in how they operate – because that’s not what the brief asks. After more discussion, we thought about exactly how we wanted to make an impact by asking the question: what kind of designer do you want to be?
The world doesn’t care about people, it’s all about money. We want to question young designers ethics: how do you want to make an impact with design? We had an idea to use brands that we think are good design but keep a lot of what they actually do in the dark. The idea would be to have an interactive design; present people with a choice of brands we think are good designs but one is ethically good and the other is not – perhaps one more well known that the other. The question, “would you work for this company?”, would be asked and then you would click the company you would aspire to work for. After clicking it, you are presenting with the facts behind the company, things they hide in the dark that you wouldn’t know about unless you did your research. After revealing the real truths behind the brand, you decide if you would still work for that company.



Overview of idea: asking young designers ‘what kind of designer you want to be?’ to encourage them to work for sustainable/ethical companies and to do your research. We believe this would help develop a generation of designers actually thinking about who they want to design for and the impact they want to have on the world.

Once developing our idea, we started designing it on Photoshop to see how we would want it to work.

The idea would be to have the image of the product and then have the information of the company revealed as the top page peels away:



I did some research on companies that have caused a lot of controversy over the years but have great branding. Coca-cola was a main one. You can’t deny that the branding is good but their choice in how they make there product is something that is morally wrong. They produce there coke in hot countries like in South America. It requires 3 litres of water to make 1 litre of coke which has caused a lot of agriculture to be dried out. They’re also known for violating workers rights. Though they are a huge international company and to work on their branding team would be incredible, it’s something wouldn’t sit right in my stomach knowing the cost of lives to produce the product.


These are all rough designs and in the presentation at the end of the day, we presenting our idea rather than our finish product. I think that the rest of the group responded well to our idea and they liked the question, ‘what kind of designer do you want to be?’ and how we shed a different light on different companies to show how it’s important to know who your working for in order to develop sustainable design.

What kind of designer do you want to be?

This interactive design would be displayed in universities, galleries and possibly online where people can constantly see and be reminded of it everyday. People won’t accept the message unless they are constantly reminded of it.

I’ve learned new things about what it means to be a designer and the power you have on the world. I understand that when you have the power to produce work to have an effect on people you must take responsibility for it. Whether that be commercial or sustainable you have to decide what’s right.


Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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