Episode 16 – Writing a Designers’ Manifesto w/ Bulent Akman

Designers have been drafting design manifestos (DM) for over a hundred years with varying degrees of success and fidelity in their professional practices. According to author Alexandra Franzen, a DM is “A written statement where you publicly declare your intentions, opinions and vision,” yet despite such a succinct characterization there appear to be gaps in understanding when it comes to the features which distinguish an exemplary DM and the function it serves (if any) in contemporary professional design practices.

These days, designers’ websites seemingly prefer short generic statements that mix their approach to design with lists of technical aptitudes and team biographies. Is this a more client-focused mission statement as opposed to a manifesto? What is the difference between them? Have manifestos been co-opted into what is really a branding exercise with the intent to sell but somehow still come off looking like they are deeply caring? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

In this episode of Bevel we meet up with Bulent Akman during Clerkenwell Design Week in London to unpack the current state of DMs and try to set the record straight on their proper form, function and value. We discuss some of the design industry’s most influential DMs by heavyweights such as Adolf Loos, Walter Gropius, Dieter Rams and Jasper Morrison, and then examine the particulars of what a DM should include, who should write it and when.

Bulent is an instructor and communications specialist with over 20 years of experience teaching digital and integrated marketing communications. He recently led a course in writing design manifestos for the School of Form, part of SWPS University in Warsaw, Poland.