We finally, after months of anticipation, got to see Objectified. I had the day off so I filled it with frivolous activities waiting for the main contributing writer to get out of work. We picked up a couple of interested friends and (due to my uncanny nature to putz) pushed time to the second. Because we don’t get the opportunity to see as many of the independent films here that we would like to, (and because my life is a little beyond busy lately) timeliness is of the essence when going to see a film such as this. It is an event. It is also an opportunity for my chronic tardiness and the weather to make life a little more interesting.
We drove into downtown Pittsburgh in a downpour. I had forgotten a jacket and thought it would most likely impact my enjoyment of the film. When we pulled up to the theater (after a slew of traffic and every red light en route), it was very close to time for the film to begin. The driver still needed to park! We made a break for the doors (my friend, his pregnant fiance and myself) and within seconds, arrived at the door…
…soaked. I was really missing that jacket. I had given the driver my umbrella. He too was soaked. Bad design.
By the time I had cozily settled into my seat at The Harris Theater with my coffee, the film had started. I sat in time to see a gangly, and ghostly figure moving mechanically across the screen. It’s curved edges bearing signs of manufactured imperfections which were gracefully swept away by a hand firmly grasping a small sickle. By the end of the introduction, the camera pulls out to focus on Jasper Morrison’s Air Chair.
Gary Hustwit follows up his resounding Helvetica with his second film of a three part series. This time, with a focus on the tangible, his collection of interviews with various designers, curators, and critics, covers the intention behind our obsession with things. Most of us interact with hundreds of objects in an average day. Though many of those objects seem insignificant, each has been carefully thought out, and has gone through several iterations before arriving on our key chains, kitchen counters, in our toothbrush holders – even containing our coffee. On top of that, those objects rely on other objects to affect us as they should – cap, handle, clip, etc. Perhaps the only time we acknowledge all of the objects that belong to us, is when we move – and oh what an overwhelming reality it can be!
The film focuses on each designer’s philosophy as to how they design to affect everyone else (A.K.A the consumer). Dieter Rams, design head at Braun for over 30 years, discusses the simplicity of design. The method, rather, of designing so that the end user forgets that the design was even considered in the first place. Somewhat concurrently, Karim Rashid notes that many modern objects have outgrown their archetypes based on developing technology. His example, is the mention of digital cameras. Originally, the shape and layout of a camera were determined by the square film it held and how that could be processed. He discusses the humanization of objects while Jonathan Ives (design head at Apple) goes back to the theory of minimalist, strictly functional, design making way for interaction – design.
Several of the designers tend to reach for personal experience and narrative too. Marc Newson discusses his first experiences as a “Designer” in his youth, while Chris Bangle discusses the faces of a car – or for that matter, adding a ‘face’ to much of all design. Hella Jongerius reflects upon her perspective on how form follows feeling (rather than function) and her philosophy behind creating the modern heirloom.
Objectified also identifies the candor that William McDonough and Michael Braungart philosophized in Cradle to Cradle. Today, it has become something that designers have pulled out a soapbox to predicate. This is made as clear throughout the film as it has become throughout the industry. While the film includes discussion on how SMART Design helped Sam Farber of Copco create the next best potato peeler to better suit his wife’s arthritis, there is also a lot of discussion on how we do things now, how we should do things tomorrow and questions how on earth we will even prepare to get there.
When Paola Antonelli poses the thought that designers are as important to our future as anything else, I get inspired. I want to have my sketch book right there, right at that moment. It’s truly about time this film was made. I think many people view the “Designer” as arrogant, ornery and abstract, but most of these ‘obtuse’ individuals spend less of their time thinking of themselves and most often consider everyone else. This isn’t a pious mentality they have, it’s just their job. Quite frankly, they probably enjoy it more than many of us. Perhaps it’s about time the rest of us stepped inline. For starters, I almost forgot about that jacket.
Features: Jonathan Ive, Karim Rashid, Marc Newson, Fiona Raby, Chris Bangle, Naoto Fukasawa, Hella Jongerius Alice Rawsthorn, Paola Antonelli, Andrew Blauvelt, Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, Anthony Dunne, Dan Formosa, Dieter Rams, Jane Fulton Suri, Rob Walker, Bill Moggridge, David Kelley, Tim Brown, and Davin Stowell.