Friday, January 29, 2010

Objectified - 2009 Documentary Review


I did not know that Objectified was made by the same guy who did Helvetica, but both are very impressive documentaries that discuss ideas and trends around design from some of its savviest practitioners.
Objectified gives airtime to the designers who make the every day stuff we use - from toothbrushes to motor cars. It's not text bookish, but has plenty of insight, some lovely nuggets around philosophy and buzzwords like the democritization of design, democratic products. A designer muses on a japanese poet's haiku on the "obsessive sketch". It reflects briefly on the fact that inspite of CAD machines and rapid prototyping, the original prototypes for most products, including motor cars, are carved out by hand. The documentary also gives about five to ten minutes of screen time to Apple, with a designer explaining how they designed the unibody enclosure that's used in Macbooks.
I liked the idea of designing things that get better with use. Leather shoes and jeans have that atribute, as does an operating system with everything installed and configured to your liking. (it's one reason why I never like to flatten and reinstall my OS)
It also looks at the problem that most designers philosophically face - that of sustainability. A designer recounts how his boss found a discarded toothbrush that his firm had made a few months after it was launched at a beach in the Pacific. Manufactured Landscapes takes a much better look at this. imho
I think this one guy nailed it best when he asked for a billion dollars to fund a marketing campaign for "things you already own". Ha. Maybe a $2 frisbee would give you a lot more joy than the iPad. I'm just saying.

It's all very well articulated and put together. A transcript of some of the chain of thoughts from one guy from the docu: I think it's both topical and relevant.
The basic idea was good design is
something you want, good design
is something that distinguishes you,
it's sort of a mark of progress,
if you are a person who recognizes good design it
distinguishes you from all the naive and
corny bourgeois of the past, the past being
everything up to that minute.
So you can now buy into that, you can buy into
progress, good design, good taste.
And they had it available to you in a very attainable
way.
Often the way that a product comes into being isn't
because a bunch of expert designers
sat down and said, "What are the ten most
important problems we can solve?"
There's a company that's writing a check. And what
the company wants is new SKU's,
they want more stuff, and they want more people to
buy it. And that's the name of the game.
We tend to want new things.
They can do something that has a different look, a
fresher look, a newer look,
a new-now, next-now kind of look.
And the problem with spending a lot of time
focusing on what's very now and very next
is that it isn't very forever. And that means it doesn't
last, because there's someone else coming along
trying to design what's now and next after that.
And part of their agenda,
whether it's over-articulated or not, is to make
whatever used to be now,
Iook like then, so that people will buy the new now.

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