An Evening Overdosing on Design

I rarely watch TV anymore.

Between a full-time job, being a father and of course my photography and this blog, I generally don’t have a lot of extra time. But I took a break yesterday and overdosed on design. It’s a way to charge up the creative batteries which, like anything else, drains and needs a boost.

I love the design of stuff. I’m not a designer by trade but I’ve always had an interest — even before photography. Last night I watched 3 documentaries, back to back. Going from the specific and small to the large. All 3 were directed by Gary Hustwit.

All 3 movies were available on Netfix Instant Streaming, for those who have the service. Below are the links to the movie on Amazon.

Helvetica
Helvetica (2007)
A story about this ubiquitous typeface and the effect of typography on design and mood. I got really interested in typography when I was in high school and this was Pre-Macintosh — a chance meeting that had an impact for the rest of my life. My father once invited a Graphic Designer to dinner who unlocked the wonderful world of typography. He explained, you can tell how good a company is and how much they spent by how well the typography was laid out in an advertisement. Kerning, the spacing between the letters, is the key and it was all done by hand back then.

Throughout high school, I bought Letraset Press Type sheets in Manhattan to pretty up my reports. Helvetica, Avant Garde and Copperplate Gothic were all familiar to me before computers can do them.

Objectified
Objectified (2009)
Do you love the design of Apple products or Braun shavers? This movie talks about the design of our consumer products with interviews with Jonathan Ive (Apple) and Dieter Rams (Braun). It even talks about automotive design with the controversial BMW head designer Chris Bangle. I, of course, use many Apple products even back from 1981 when my father got an Apple ][. In fact, not unlike hunters that have their prized kill hung on the wall, I have my first computer, an Apple ][ plus, hanging on my office wall. Sad but true. What can I say, I’m a nerd.

I also have a 20-year-old Braun alarm clock that wakes me up every morning that sounds exactly like the one in the movie, though the design is different.

Helvetica
Urbanized (2011)
This third movie talks about the design of cities and our urban environment. Of course it touches on architecture but it’s more about how people live in these dense urban environments, from the slums of third world countries to the glittering first world showcase cities. A long time ago, before I wanted to be an architect, I actually wanted to be a city planner. That was before I knew what a city planner did. As a 10 year old, I didn’t know city planning was more of a governmental function. I wanted to be that guy that designed how entire cities looked.

You can tell by my photography, that my interest for the city and architecture is still alive.

All 3 movies have 4 1/2 star ratings on Amazon. Highly recommended if you are into design and documentaries. Not exactly Bruce Wilis action movies (though I do love The Fifth Element), but again you might learn something from these choices.


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4 thoughts on “An Evening Overdosing on Design

  1. Andy, that’s fantastic. I’d forgotten all about Letraset type — lining up the little baselines, burnishing the letters onto the paper surface. Your blog entry catapulted me right back to my visual roots: the original 1960s Volkswagen ad campaign designed by Helmut Krone. “Think Small”, indeed.

    I’ll start watching your recommended videos this evening.

  2. Like you I rarely watch TV and like you I am not a designer but have a keen interest in design, from fonts to cities. Interestingly, however, I don’t share your view on Apple products in terms of design. I do appreciate the quality and workmanship that goes into their products and there are certain elements of their designs that are quite simply exquisite, but invariably there will be some aspect that will ruin it for me. But I guess that is the fascination we have with design; it can trigger all sorts of responses in us both physical and emotional and that is probably why I am so interested in it, regardless of how my filters and biases make me perceive it.

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