The Fifth Manifesto Style

Australian Flag

Previously, I wrote about four manifesto styles. And, like the forgotten fifth member of The Beatles, I think there’s a fifth manifesto style that I’ve overlooked – the image.

The Power of a Flag

If you doubt that an image can hold the explosive power of a written manifesto you only need to consider the emotional impact of a national flag – a simple piece of cloth that is saturated with meaning.

One group of people may salute a flag and go to war to defend it. Another group may burn the flag to show their disrespect for what it means and as a potential call to arms against it.

The burning of a flag is a powerful political statement. In contrast, if I burnt my good white t-shirt, no one will care much because it doesn’t represent an ideal – its just a white t-shirt. Unless of course it’s the one my best friend gave me for my birthday. That’d explain why they no longer want to talk to me…

Personal note: I dislike the Australian flag. I think it’s time for a new one that represents who we are today and not our past. Your thoughts? Do you like the flag of your country?

[Tweet “The 5th way to create your #manifesto”]

It’s not about the Image

Surprisingly, the key to creating your manifesto as an image does not live in the actual image. It’s the meaning or story we attach to the image that matters.

At a basic level, this is how the written word works. Any words we create only become useful and meaningful when we understand the language. If I’m illiterate and can’t read what you’ve written then I’ll just see a bunch of fancy squiggles. Similarly, given I don’t know how to read Greek, Arabic or Japanese, these alphabets and languages also look like scribble to me. Further, even though I recognize the letters, because I don’t understand German, French or Spanish, I’m equally left without interpretation, meaning and understanding. They’re not squiggles and they still don’t convey any message to me.

Which comes first?

Do you create the image first or the written manifesto? I’m not sure it matters. At the least, you need to have an idea to hang your hat on. Then, you can write it down or define it through an image.

If you do start with an image, make sure you follow it up with a good story to make it mean something. You will at least need some frame of reference to say ‘That image fits what we want to achieve!’

Your Manifesto as Image

Here’s a couple of thoughts about designing your manifesto as an image:

  • Your manifesto as an image can represent any of the four styles I previously talked about – a goal, a list, rules or a world.
  • One way to think of your manifesto as an image is to think of the icons on your computer desktop or your smartphone. Ideally, it’ll work at different scales and it will represent something bigger.
  • Pick only one aspect of your manifesto idea to expand, celebrate and demonstrate as an overall theme. This is a method used by famous book cover designer Peter Mendelsund.
  • Remember, it’s the image AND the meaning that matters. When you first create any image it won’t have this meaning. You’ll have to add this interpretation to adopt the design. Then you’ll need to continue adding it as you share it until the connection is made in the mind of the viewer. The same process you go through when building a brand!

Love to hear your thoughts about this. And, in particular your favorite images as manifestos. Leave a comment below.


More Updates

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Life's Work

Your life’s work won’t just happen automagically by itself. To fulfil your life’s work you need a plan. But what’s the best way to do this?

Four Questions to Win the Game of Life

I’m a sports nut. I’ll watch almost any sport – especially Aussie Rules football. And from watching and playing a lot of sports, I know

Four Declarations for when things don't go to plan

Forest Gump’s mum famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” For me, life is