Interviewed in Zagreb on 17 May 2016
One interesting guest appeared in April at the opening of the exhibition of Boris Bućan’s posters at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was Rick Poynor, at the same time one of the authors of texts included in the exhibition catalogue. Less than a month later, he again came to Croatia, giving a lecture on early Bućan’s posters at the Museum’s Gorgona Hall. His view from the outside, as it was defined in the announcement of that guest appearance, is an extraordinary moment in which one local artist can be placed in an international context. One of the most important issues that this renowned theoretician and design critic is concerned with is the possible separation of design from the dominant marketing key of the production. For Poynor, Bućan comes here as an interesting example of a practice non-existent in the West, the one in which, even under the supervision of the commissioner of the poster, the artist persistently and stubbornly insists on his work. In an interview with Poynor himself – who was also staying as a guest in the Museum’s legendary apartment for artists – we have tried to find out if there is a limit for the design as independent art and the design as commissioned work. The man who founded the iconic Eye Magazine and then continued to write on his widely read blog, Design Observer, while since cooperating with all the most important newspapers, from i-D Magazine to Print, connects in his thinking the cultural theory, design and art history, writing about it in his regular column Critique. Furthermore, he focuses on the relation between graphic design and typography in his book titled Typography Now, while in No More Rules he studies the relation between design and postmodernism.
ORIS — Can you tell us a bit more about the background of te First Things First 2000 manifesto? What was the main theme?
Rick Poynor — First Things First was originally published in 1964, in London, by a designer called Ken Garland. By the 1990s, the manifesto was only known to a minority of people in design and occasionally there were articles about it. We published the manifesto in Eye magazine in 1994. The American designer Tibor Kalman saw this and introduced FTF to Kalle Lasn, founder and editor of Adbusters magazine. Kalman told Lasn, You should do it again. That is where the idea to relaunch the manifesto came from. The text was rewritten, but it is about the same length as the original. It is similar in structure, it deals with similar themes, but it is updated for the present moment. The essence of both versions of the manifesto is that, if you are a designer, working for all kinds of clients, then it might be a good idea to think about your position in the scheme of things. Perhaps it would be constructive, rather than just doing commercial work, promotional work and advertising, to consider your social responsibility as a designer and put more effort into design for social purposes.