Tag Archives: Design Thinking

Design Documentaries – Four Thumbs Up

16 Aug

When it comes to books and movies, I’m all about nonfiction and documentaries; living in DC, after all, I get more than my fair share of comedy and drama in real life. I recently came across two documentaries in my Netflix queue that I simply couldn’t pass up, and both were about design. I highly recommend both.

Future by Design”, by Academy Award nominated filmmaker William Gazecki, profiles the life and work of a modern day Da Vinci, futurist Jacque Fresco. Equal parts artist, engineer, philosopher, educator, and inventor, Fresco is perhaps best known for his utopian ideals and futurist design. His theories of a resource-based economy and his political ideology champion the merits of science and its role in leading to automation and sustainability.

Watching the documentary, which alternates between Fresco as narrator and Fresco as interviewee, one can’t help but feel inspired by the forward thinking Renaissance man. Even though Fresco is nearly 90 years of age in the documentary (he is still going strong at 95), he springs from idea to idea with the enthusiasm of a kid in a (futuristic) candy store.  His ideas are more fantasy than not, but it is the process of design thinking, and the way Fresco approaches problems that make the film so compelling.

Jacque Fresco in his Studio

“In my work I am not attempting to predict the future. I am only pointing out what is possible with the intelligent application and humane use of science and technology.”

Where “Future by Design” explores the journey and life work of a particular designer,” Objectified”, a 2009 documentary by Gary Hustwit, dives into the discipline of industrial design itself. The cast of “Objectified” includes the giants of the design world that have done more to make consumers acknowledge the role and importance of design than anyone else: MoMA’s Design Curator Paola Antonelli, the former Design Director of BMW, Apple’s Jonathan Ive, and designers from firms such as Ideo and Smart Design all contribute to the enlightening and visually-stunning film.

From the manufacturing of MacBooks to the understated details of Japanese chopsticks, “Objectified” applies a microscope to our interaction with products, and examines the complex psychological relationship we have with them.

Hustwit, who also directed the documentary “Helvetica” – about typography and graphic design – is rounding out his trio of appropriately titled, design-centric documentaries with “Urbanized”, which, you guessed it, will explore cities and urban design.

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