“Winners don’t write manifestos,” jokes Scott King, who, all the same, has just finished writing one. It’s hard to believe that King – a former art director for i-D, creative director for Sleazenation, and professor of visual communication at the University of the Arts London – really belongs in the ‘loser’ camp, but his comment is only half in jest.
“The author is almost inevitably thwarted in some way,” he continues. “Ad agencies and certain aspects of government might see themselves as winners writing manifestos, but culturally, or in the arts, they’re written by losers. [Filippo Tommaso] Marinetti was a loser. Wyndham Lewis was a loser. It’s trying to agitate, and lay out how they think things should be, and they’re often written by cranks and outsiders. I think I might include myself in that.”
Manifestos arguably sit awkwardly within brands, or even big design or ad agencies, although writing a manifesto has become a trend in recent years, used as a way to spell out a company’s philosophy or ideology. Yet some might feel they would do well to steer clear of these documents, which are often thoroughly defanged once they’re in the service of big business.
“If someone was going to take a subject and clarify it for the good of many people, I think that’s the ultimate reason for a manifesto,” King says. “But it’s misused. And it’s either the lone crank who wants to create a space for themselves, or a cynical ad agency or government that want to appear to be saying the right things. But I’m on the side of the lone nut who’d consider writing one in order to make space for themselves, in order to create work.”