Last week a few us at Habanero went to see Objectified, which is a film about designing objects as well as the people and process behind them. The director, Gary Hustwit, was at the screening at the Rio Theatre to introduce the film and to answer questions after.
I think it's great to see the personal connection to a film, especially how passionate and curious Gary is about design. It was also neat to learn that he works right up to the last minute like the rest of us; the day before the worldwide premiere, he was up all night editing the film!
I had no idea how this film would approach "design" and "objects," which are such broad terms. The film covered a lot of ground — everything from toothpicks to laptops, and people from Jonathan Ive (Apple) to Andrew Blauvelt (Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis). The time passed quickly though. It was a fascinating and engaging look at object design.
If you haven't seen the film, I promise I won't ruin it for you, but I do want to highlight a couple of moments that stood out for me:
The Japanese toothpick
One of the curators of a museum was discussing the simple toothpick, which I'm sure you have in your kitchen somewhere. Apparently there is a little cut-out at the top that you rip off the end of the toothpick. In Japan, people rest the toothpick in the cut-out to keep it off a surface and to indicate that it's used. I had no idea people in Japan did that! It's amazing that different cultures use things in different ways, and that something as simple as a toothpick has such intricate attention to detail.
Cardboard phones, anyone?
In this wasteful society, we upgrade cell phones, computers, and other things quite frequently. What if electronics such as phones were made out of cardboard? It was an interesting idea proposed by one of the designers in the film during the discussion of sustainability. It's an interesting notion because we tend to buy things that we think should last, including buying protective cases for phones and iPods. But a few years later, we upgrade and throw those things out. What if we bought these things so they could be easily recycled or thrown out?
It's not only about designing objects, but process too
Jonathon Ive at Apple showed pieces of MacBooks and how the laptop comes together in a behind-the-scenes look at designing Apple products. They try to use less material and less steps to build computers to reduce the build complexity of the machine. It was interesting to hear Jonathon discuss that they not only design the final product, but they have to design how the product comes together. In other words, they spend just as much time designing the process as designing the final object itself.
All in all, this was an enjoyable film for me. It wasn't too design-heavy either — it's approachable for all kinds of audiences. It did seem a bit consumerism-focused, but that is what drives design, marketing, and the making of all these things in the end. Gary made the point a couple of times after the film that it is us as a society that is driving design for all kinds of things, and we have to question the need for these objects in order for companies to change their behaviour.
Overall, this movie is a must-see for designers of all kinds, as well as your mothers, so they can understand what it is that you do! Hope everyone had a great Mother's Day.