“Went with Apple's Jony Ive to a prem of Objectified, a docco about design. Enjoyed it hugely. Jony more or less a god in my universe....”
The film looks at a wide variety of iconic objects, but mostly concentrates on the people behind them. While his first fim, Helvetica - a documentary about the font- was a neat package of a film, covering the designers, the advocates and the opponents (Arial), New Yorker Hustwit describes Objectified as “messy.” With so many people involved it is ambitious, but he manages to cover a lot of ground in 80 minutes, speaking to some of the most pioneering and esteemed industrial designers and firms across the world, probing them on their relationship with design and how they think design should fit into our lives.
Starting with SMART design in the USA. I was pleased to see their most iconic design was same vegetable peeler that sits in my cutlery drawer. Dieter Rams of Braun in Germany was shot pruning his immaculate bonsai garden and spouting design philosophy such as, ”Good design is as little design as possible.”
Jony Ive head designer of Apple was a surprise- very good natured, super buff (he does live in California) and with a quintessential English nature- self deprecating and quietly intelligent- a genius some would say. ”It feels almost undersigned” he says of good design, while showing us the inside of a Mac book and out the minimization of certain parts – where the challenge is to make as few parts in the one machine as possible.
Many of the designers spoke of the best objects having an "undesigned" quality - objects that assimilate seamlessly with our day to day lives.
Bill Goddridge co-founder of IDEO showed Hustwit the first lap top ever - designed by him. A large clunky black metal thing with a small square screen, Goddridge said he was initially chuffed with his design of the object, until he began using it and became instantly absorbed by the interface and the world within the computer- this is when he realized that it was the software which needed designing. And so he promptly coined the term “interaction design” - that which governs the majority of our day to lives, with atm’s, sat nav’s, mobile phones, and blackberries.
Hustwit gathered some charming childhood anecdotes- recollections of when designers first discovered a passion for design. Karim Rashid, New York designer of many pastel coloured objects, describes his first fetishised object- his Braun alarm clock (designed by Dieter Ram), which, as a teen he would look to for soothing when teen angst overcame. A flamboyant man typically dressed in pink Rashid was enthusiastic, while many of the other designers all exude an air of zen calm - as though they are at one with objects and the universe- the visionaries and cultural philosophers of our time!
Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa speaks of haiku's and his childhood obession with potato peeling- as a child, which left carving marks that were dirty and then once washed clean shapely carves.
Marc Newson, the rugged and down to earth Australian, who the brother duo Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec charmingly refer to in their interview when discussing a robust chair which could take the weight of a drunk Australian t which his brother quips- “Are talking about Marc Newson?!” Newson, who has built a mini empire in Paris, with QANTAS planes, bikes, clothing, chairs, and all kinds of objects under his belt, describes his obession with space travel, and the wrist watch his father gave him. Which he promptly smashed open and then proceeded to reassemble within a piece of Perspex plastic! A natural instinct and passion to see how things are put together - and then to try and do it better- motivates Newson.
Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, talks about design democracy as en empty slogan- all design is for everyone, so there’s no such thing. She refers to designers as culture generators, London’s conceptual designers Dunne and Raby who have designed robots and other such objects to explore human interaction with objects. Their designs only get shown in galleries and museums and is not for mass production, so they do not have the constraints of mass industrialisation.
After the film is finished, Alice Rawthsorn, Design Editor for the International Herald Tribune, Marc Newson and Jony Ive come down front for a Q&A with Gary Hustwit.
Gary queries Jony’s comment in the film about designers being disconnected from the material- are consumers also disconnected?
“Only because designers do such a lousy job, I’m shocked out how disconnected they are from the actual object- the common thing between Marc and I is our absolute obsession with the thing- consumers are disconnected because what they live with is #D graphic design.- Hey that’s a good pint, I’m going to use that!
Marc- “I was trained as a jeweler, I’ve always felt designer has to know how to build things,
Alice - “From the consumers perspective, because I don’t design I write about and as these two keep telling me it’s much easier! Karim Rashid- most people consider him to be s stylist, and hearing him talk about the soothing effect his Braun alarm clock had on him, while Marc talks about ripping his watch about and distilling it to the fundamental pieces. 99% of what designers produce isn’t great- a lot isn’t even mediocre.”
Marc- "I don’t have a huge amount of faith in the consumers ability to choose, it’s the designers job to design these choices."
What do they think about democratization of the tools of design?
Marc -“I think it will pollute, 3D rapid prototyping is referred to as 3D printing. It’s an egalitarian idea of consumer design their own products in the future- that’s the designers job, to have a view and solve the problems.”
A user experience consultant for Microsoft asks, “With all the going green initiatives around the world does it limit your design?”
Marc- "No, I think the best way to be environmentally responsible is to design nice things that you wont want to throw away, that you can ccreate a bond with and will get better with age."
Jony- "We spend a lot of time trying to make packaging smaller, for instance we stopped the shipping of CRT tube based products, the implications of shipping something so big and so heavy were really significant, and there are non obvious ways in which you can address the issue of sustainability-"
Marc- “Making things really expensive for example!”
I later wished someone had asked Jony Ive why Apple will not design a Mac with which one can keep the hardware and simply replace the shell- why do they keep on updating their products so they people must buy new ones- why must there be built in obsolescence to these products? Obviously technology develops rapidly, but they have full knowledge of this and no doubt they release new products when they already have the next phase ready. Jony finished by saying that the design of a product is to get design out of the way, to understand the hierarchy of the product and enable that.
Marc Newson said his anger and frustration at things that don’t exist or should be better is a motivation, Gary recognized this as his motivation for filmmaking. He reveals that there’s a third design film that he’s currently working on that will book end these two, “and then another 6 or 7 films that I want to see that don’t yet exist.” I certainly look forward to seeing more.