Objectified: the movie

I saw this film documentary at mix09 one night. After the showing the director Gary Hustwit opened questions and answers from a developer focused crowd. I did express my opitions to the crowd and Gary. The film left me a little feeling uneasy at the notion of hero worshipping the designers behind some of the products and services. In essence the film feel like two halves. First half is about the process and aesthetics of design, so obvious examples like Apple come up. But much more interestingly is part 2 which is more about the affect of design on culture and society. I think Miles once described designers as the whore of capitalism, and after watching a good part of the first half you can see how that kind of fits in place. Ben Darlow (kapowaz) thinks I'm full of crap and I need to check my baggage at the door. Yes I did cringe when Jonathan Ive was talking about the process of making the new mac book but to be fair its been talked about to death and its like me jabbering on about the beauty of XSLT. Sometimes you just don't really want to hear it. Actually its that kind of inward looking, which I struggle to get and be part of when I was studying design at university.

Anyway, its not all bad, actually later in the film it gets really good. Some of the oldskool designers admit they didn't have the environmental impact as a thought in there mind when designing, now thats simply not possible and although that makes things very difficult its a creative constraint. There was also a small part about customisation and personalisation. Its one of those things which I think is the most interesting part of design. Designing to enable others to hack and customise. I wasn't the only one who picked up this point. During further questioning, the point was made that the person buying the product should have ownership of the product, and that means if they choose to paint it a different colour or customise it, they should be able to, or at least not feel like they ruined someone's design. The site which was mentioned was ikeahacker, which although Ikea suggest you use something a certain way in a certain context in the showrooms and catalogue. Gets completely turned on its head.

So generally the film is a good one, its easy to get wrapped up in design and think about the pure aesthetics but design is so much more that just pretty shapes and paint jobs. And later in the film, this is explored in more detail. Garry says this is a 2nd of trilogy, so I'm looking forward to hearing what subject he will cover for the third and final one.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.