First, Helvetica. Then, Objectified. Now, Urbanized. You might think Gary Hustwit, director of the recently completed trilogy of films on design had a deep involvement with the design world prior to making Helvetica. He didn't. He worked in the music industry, made a few music films (including the acclaimed Wilco doc I am Trying to Break Your Heart), and tried his hand at designing a few typefaces. But, the trilogy simply grew out of a somewhat obsessive curiosity about design and how it happens, and a desire to reveal how it impacts our everyday.
Hustwit's status as a (former) design outsider is precisely what is so great about his films. He views the processes behind things like the creation of the New York City Subway Map and the detailed decisions made in designing the iPod, as novel and exciting. He asks questions a designer wouldn't, and tells the stories of design in a (somewhat) objective, journalistic way. His films reveal the processes and decisions made by designers, but most essentially, they show the impact that these decisions have on us.
While all three of his last films may seem very specific at first glance, Hustwit takes a democratic spin on design with all, remaining very cognizant of telling the story simply and to the largest audience that may be interested. He wanted to talk to designers about design, but he has no desire to make films that just speak to designers. Urbanized, the final film in his trilogy, focuses on the design of cities. Hustwit's approach, emphasizing how design affects us all, comes across most clearly in this film. More importantly, he reveals how ordinary people can affect design.
Illuminating this is Hustwit's response to the notion that a trilogy on design, starting with graphic and moving to industrial, would naturally move to architecture. In response, Hustwit explains, "I've always been interested in architecture, but there have been a lot of documentaries about architects and about architecture. But mostly I wanted to explore architecture in the context of the city rather than just looking at buildings. I was more interested in the public realm than the private realm of just buildings; and also, how those two interact."
Hustwit continued, "I like the idea of showing how design affects our lives and then showing the people that are responsible for that design. In this case, that happens to be as much ordinary citizens as trained professionals."
Helvetica and Objectified a...