Art Manifestos and Their Applications in Contemporary Design

The way you express yourself with words is a crucial extension of your creative identity. Professional designers are usually busy focusing on the visual aspects of their craft, but visual arts and literary arts collide and coincide regularly. The two fields meet not just in typography, but also in press releases, social networking communication, slogans, promotional materials, ‘About Me’ pages, marketing strategies, and every single pitch, contract, and email you’ve ever sent to a client.

What might happen if you injected some of those materials with a healthy dose of poetry, humor, or bravado? Obviously, doing so will not be appropriate in some forums, but when it is, this may be a good way to express yourself and differentiate your brand from the crowd.

Some of the most electrifying examples of writing about art and design come in the form of the manifesto. The manifesto has played a pivotal role in some of the most important creative movements of the previous century: Futurism, Surrealism, and Cubism among them. Most graphic designers working today will probably not require their own manifesto, but it can be helpful to write a mission statement or expression of your creative goals. Likewise, most of us probably don’t intend to launch a full-scale ‘movement,’ but this genre of writing may inspire you to reconsider the literary content of your creative work and its public representation.

What is a manifesto?

The 1963 Fluxus manifesto by George Maciunas includes rousing proclamations in the form of both handwriting and typewriter copy.

The artists’ manifesto is a “document of an ideology, crafted to convince and convert” (Mary Ann Caws, Manifesto: a Century of isms). The word ‘manifesto’ contains elements of the Latin terms ‘manus’ (hand) and ‘festus,’ which may be derived from the root ‘fendere,’ as in ‘offendere.’ In other words, the manifesto is a personal or even handwritten statement intending to shock, inspire, or offend. Most of the artists in this selection lived in times that they felt desperately required change, and their solution was revolution.

Artists’ manifestos were being written as early as 1886, but the genre developed into a “new literary sport” after the publication of Italian artist/provocateur F.T. Marinetti’s first Futurist manifesto in 1909 (Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Moment). Marinetti’s writing had mythmaking qualities; this ringleader of the Futurists “became a public figure as a result of, not prior to the publication” of his manifesto.

Here are four artists’ manifestos, beginning with that of Futurism – the lunatic grandaddy of all artists’ manifestos. A review of each manifesto is accompanied by historical context, images of relevant artwork, and inspiration for contemporary applications of the ideas within. read more

In Conclusion

Build your business into a brilliant brand, not a boring bland. Seek new and unusual intersections of media. Look at the big picture. What’s going on in your neighbor’s industry today that will affect yours tomorrow?

Go to a museum. Put more art in your design. Always evolve. Be witty and unpredictable. Just remember, as illustrator Sergio Baradat once said, “It’s okay to pull a rabbit out of your hat, but sometimes a rabbit out of a hat is not what’s called for.”

Promote positive change in the world around you when you can. Support a charitable cause. Use your voice. Don’t waste words. Make them sing and dance.

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