Objectified – San Francisco Premier

Posted by Alex

I had the chance to go to the San Francisco premier of Objectifed last night. It was the first of four screenings here in the city, and part of the film’s journey as it makes its way around the world, showing in over 100 cities. After the screening, there was also a short Q&A with the filmmaker Gary Hustwit and a few designers from the film. It was sold out, as it is for the two showings tonight, but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth going to check out anyway. There were more than a few open seats and I think they release a few tickets at the door. If not, Gary mentioned it would return in June to the Yerba Buena Center, and possibly release on DVD later in the year (though this seems really soon).

I feel like it takes two viewings for me to really formulate my opinion on a film, but my initial reaction to Objectified is very positive. I really enjoyed it and came out a lot more inspired than I was going in. Hustwit has a very accessible style; he is able to quickly engage the viewer regardless of prior knowledge or experience. His subject choice is fantastic as well, and he captures some poignant and salient remarks from incredible minds working in the field. My favorite segment was probably the one on Marc Newsom (or maybe Rob Walker) but it’s hard for me to remember. I wish I could have taken more notes!

When I posted on the film a while back I didn’t really have any idea what the film was actually going to be about. I had heard it was about industrial design but that was about it. After the screening tonight, I’d say it’s really about everything; design in a general sense. (Interestingly, the term “industrial design” only occurs once or twice.) As with Helvetica, what is said about the chosen arena of (industrial) design can really apply to all design fields. Discussions of utility, objectivity, and efficiency come up regardless of whether or not you work on paper or in steel. The film is really about design thinking and the creativity designers bring to whatever problem they are solving. There was a mention, and I forget by whom, that designers are the philosophers and intellectuals of the future. For me, this sums up the film. Sure it focuses on industrial design, but the real takeaway is that designers are becoming increasingly valuable to society for their way of thinking and problem solving, not just for making pretty objects.

Comparisons with Helvetica are inevitable, and the one thing that Objectified was missing was an opposing perspective. Erik Spiekermann had an unforgettable segment in Helvetica that pretty much made the movie for me. His passionate hatred of the typeface was not only hilarious and entertaining, but also extremely valuable in that it provided a counter-argument to make the film more well rounded. Objectified is very optimistic and hopeful, and it stays this way throughout the entire film. As one of my classmates pointed out, there is no downer interview that provides an alternative perspective. Everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid so to speak. Regardless, it was fun to discuss this issue with my classmates after the film, and I would really recommend seeing it with fellow designers.

Seeing it in San Francisco was definitely a treat. The design community here feels very small, and I love it when there is an event which brings a lot of us together. After the film, everyone emptied out onto the street and hung around discussing the film and design in general. You could really feel the energy of so many people being creatively inspired all at once. I felt really excited and proud to call myself a Designer.

7 Comments Leave A Comment


Cheradenine says:

April 22, 2009 at 5:15 am

“There was a mention, and I forget by whom, that designers are the philosophers and intellectuals of the future. For me, this sums up the film.”

Uhm. Normally I take design-wankery in stride, but that’s some rather incredible hubris. As interesting as arranging physical materials into pleasing shapes is, it is not the philosophy of the future. Unless you have a severely deflated view of what philosophy is or an extremely inflated view of what design is.


alex says:

April 22, 2009 at 9:08 am

Sean Patrick- It is indeed! His segment of the film is heartbreakingly short but very interesting. As Gary mentioned, each interview lasted for hours, but only a couple minutes of each could be used in the film. I’m hoping that the DVD will come with bonus footage (like Helvetica did) with extra interviews etc.

Cheradenine- It was certainly an interesting statement. In the context of the film, it came across as more of a hopeful suggestion than an overly prideful statement of fact. I believe it was meant to emphasize the power that designers (of all disciplines) find they have, and how this power might manifest itself as the field evolves. No longer will it be good enough to just design covetable objects that look nice; rather a more holistic approach will become necessary, especially as the negative effects of consumerism become more severe. It was about questioning the role of the designer in today’s society, and proposing a potential next step.


SV4 says:

April 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Very happy that our friends Telefon Tel Aviv were included, as well as Matthew Dear and Midwest Product.