March 1, 2009
Filmmaker Gary Hustwit takes viewers inside famous—and sometimes secretive—design studios.
If you have been wanting a peek inside the world’s leading design studios but lacked an access card, now’s your chance. Although it’s not quite the same as a personal visit, Gary Hustwit is pulling back the curtain with his camera. For the follow-up to his popular documentary, Helvetica—a riveting tale about a single typeface—the filmmaker takes on in-dustrial design in its entirety. Objectified, launching this month at South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas, aims to uncover the creative processes of top designers while examining how the objects they make impact our lives.
“When I first started thinking about the film a couple of years ago, it was just going to be about chairs,” admits Hustwit, who is based in Brooklyn. “But I realized that was too limiting. I was really fascinated by all these objects that surround us—cars, iPods, everything. I’m obsessed with industrial design.” Hustwit, who has no formal training in design or film but used to work for SST Records, credits the DIY nature of the independent music scene with initially sparking his interest in design. “When the Mac first came out, I was using it to design punk-rock record covers and things like that,” he says. “There was this Modernist make-your-own-world philosophy that was part of it.”
Today he is driven by pure curiosity. “I’m the type of person who wants to know more,” he says of making the film. “I was reexamining my relationship to all these material objects and, by extension, the people who design them.” And after the success of Helvetica, Hustwit had easy access to high-profile designers such as Marc Newson, Dieter Rams, Karim Rashid, Hella Jongerius, and Naoto Fukasawa. One notable score is an interview with Apple’s press-shy Jonathan Ive, whom Hustwit filmed in Apple’s secretive California design lab. “I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” he wrote on the film’s Web site, “except everything was made of shiny aluminum instead of candy. And there were no oompa loompas.”
Viewers can expect spirited opinions in Objectified, Hustwit says, similar to those expressed in Helvetica, where the best moments came from designers who passionately loved or hated the typeface and were more than happy to explain why. “The same kinds of contrasts exist in the design of objects,” he says. “There are people who are just about function and simplicity of form, and then there are other designers who want to express their individuality.” But Hustwit found at least one commonality among those featured in the film. “The impulse to design is the same,” he says. “All these people love what they do, and that totally comes through in the interviews.”
Click here to see our previous coverage of Objectified—including a trailer of the movie.