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Adbusters: First Things First billboard

Contributed by Stéphane Darricau on Nov 29th, 2017. Artwork published in
September 1999
Adbusters: First Things First billboard 1
Source: Jonathan Barnbrook/Adbusters. License: All Rights Reserved.

Arguably one of the highlights of the long-running collaboration between Jonathan Barnbrook and Canadian watchgroup Adbusters, this huge (12×40 ft, 3.66×12.2 m) billboard was set up in Las Vegas in September 1999 to coincide with the AIGA Biennial Conference, which was taking place in the city at the same time. Based on a quote by the late Tibor Kalman, who had died the previous spring, it also announced the launch of the First Things First 2000 campaign — the revised version of Ken Garland’s seminal 1963 manifesto (see image below) had just appeared in Adbusters magazine, and would later be reprinted in Emigre, the AIGA Journal, as well as Eye and Blueprint (United Kingdom), Items (Netherlands) and Form (Germany).

Barnbrook chose to illustrate Kalman’s “Designers stay away from corporations that want you to lie for them” by graphically alluding to six different fields of business without explicitly citing any: from left to right, perfumes and cosmetics, sportsgear, automobile, tobacco, fashion and the fastfood industry are all singled out as the main providers of manipulative advertising and visual pollution in the public realm, but the impossibility of identifying a particular brand prevents the risk of any “McLibel case”-style legal retaliation.

All the typeface choices are spot on here, from the ready-made sophistication of Perpetua Titling to the cheap congeniality of Monoline Script, the powerful dynamism of ITC Franklin Gothic Heavy Italic, the masculine technicity of Eurostile Bold Extended, the heroic Old West flavour of Clarendon and the clichéed elegance of Bodoni. Additional information, tucked in the lower right-hand corner, is set in FF DIN Bold.

Adbusters: First Things First billboard 2
Source: Jonathan Barnbrook. License: All Rights Reserved.
Adbusters: First Things First billboard 3
Photo: Stéphane Darricau. Ken Garland. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Perpetua Titling
  • ITC Franklin Gothic
  • Eurostile
  • Clarendon
  • Bodoni
  • Monoline Script
  • FF DIN




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