Quick, grab your ironic Himmler spectacles and a latte! It's time for designers to rant in these, two similar documentaries from director Gary Hustwit. Helvetica looks at typography specifically focusing on the films eponymous typeface while Objectified takes a broader scope to product design.
Meditating on a typeface for an hour and a half sounds almost like a joke. An exercise in monotony. After all, this is the typeface you see at the hospital, on street signs and over the door of Urban Outfitters; the most prolific distributor of Toronto's hipster uniform. It's the wallpaper of the world and has never garnered a second thought from most of us. This is the cool thing about this film, it is uncovering things you never noticed were there. The real question is now you know, do you care?
Objectified clarifies the ideological stances of the design professional as we find ourselves at the inevitable destination of Apple inc. the holy grail of contemporary design and then god forbid, Ikea (Oh escapism!). It covers issues of sustainability and ethics through cars, mobile phones, chairs, toothbrushes, blah etc. The most enduring concept of all is simple and is that people need to demand design that works for them, as opposed to designs and products making them feel inadequate. Seems like common sense, but then again so does putting down your mobile phone whilst making public transactions and we know that doesn't happen.
If you really want to get into the spirit of things, the presentation of these films might optimistically be described as minimalist and functional. But a film isn't the same as in iPod is it? The truth is, so many 'talking heads' does get dry and the films real world references provide just enough illustration to lubricate you for the duration.
For design students these films will be a fun distillation of their industry and it gives everyone an interesting second take at the world we have created. For the most part though, I for one am just as happy taking most man-made objects for granted. The designers themselves say good design should just work and not be distracting. These films are so cold and whilst not being totally devoid of structure, there is not much to care about. This simple fact leaves them feeling less like celluloid cool and more like suddenly becoming aware of the cold clammy hand of consumer culture touching you inappropriately. And that I wouldn't recommend to anyone but the most devoted of fans.