One of the reasons we never pursued a career as film reviewers is that writing in the dark is so difficult. Compared to those notes that we write in darkened cinemas the Rosetta Stone appears as if it was set in Helvetica 8. And so it is that from our trip to “Objectified” at the IFC Centre in New York, the only words we can clearly read are “organic popcorn”.
It was, and it was lovely.
Fortunately we know people who can read our hand writing and they have now finished the translation enabling us to finish our review.
In short Objectified is “a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.”
More detailed it is a series of interviews with designers interlaced with scenes showing the design process in action.
There are some wonderful highlights such as Jonathan Ive from Apple talking very openly about his relationship to his designs, Ronan Bouroullec explaining how he is a fox compared to his brother Erwan’s porcupine – at least when it comes to handing technical problems during the design process – and Dieter Rams being Dieter Rams.
What Objectified does very well is draws ones attention to the fact that the design process exists. And lets be honest how many of us were consciously aware of the fact that the Post-It note was designed.
In addition Objectified makes clear that despite the often heard “I could have designed that” designing it is not something that is open to us all. You have to truly live it.
Objectified is a wonderfully relaxing 75 minutes in which you can spend just as much time dreaming and thinking about what is happening on the screen as actually consciously paying attention. And yet when you come out you can remember every quote and every scene. Lovely
There were however a couple of points that irritated us. Firstly everything is so clean. Everything. Design however is a dirty process. And a stressful, revolutionary process. This side of design isn’t captured
The day after we saw Objectified we were present at ICFF discussion during which Pierre Nicolas Grohe from bathroom producer Hansgrohe explained some of the problems they have, for all when a designer produces something that pushes the existing technology beyond what is currently possible. In many cases whole new production processes have to be developed simply to produce a chair. Ronan Bouroullec attempts to achieve his goal through diplomacy and contact, brother Erwan through instance and challenge. The Fox and the Porcupine.
That no-one who uses your product will ever appreciate the blood, sweat, tears and gin that flowed to create it, doesn’t matter.
Yet Objectified is generally only people sitting round in clean rooms making very clean drawings or having uncluttered discussions in an orderly fashion. A bit more grime would have been appreciated.
And then there is the obviously recreated scenes in design studios. Yes one can understand the need to visualise the process rather than relying on interviews, but for us recreating scenes in a documentary and not highlighting them as being such always detracts a little from the authority of the work.
A further point that annoyed us a little in New York is that the majority of the crowd were obviously designers or involved in “design” in some way. There weren’t an awful lot of “lays”
And that is a shame, because Objectified is great film for all those who genuinely know nothing about design but know, roughly, what they like.
Good design is like good wine – one can bore and hypothesise at great lengths about it, or one can just enjoy it and be thankful that you weren’t the poor fool who spent 16 hours a day in the studio and/or vineyard.
Despite the small reservations, for us Objectified is well worth the trip and should it be showing in a cinema near you, do try and get along.
You probably only get the organic popcorn at IFC Centre however.
(PS and we will send an official Objectified postcard to the first person who correctly identifies the pun in the first paragraph. Entries to email@example.com)