Design on screen is a real treat, so let’s have more of it

Last week’s London premiere of the movie Objectified can’t be allowed to pass without comment. I missed the screening so this isn’t a review of film director Gary Hustwit’s latest design-centric opus, but an attempt to put it in context.

Like Hustwit’s typography triumph Helvetica, Objectified is unlikely to be a box-office blockbuster. Design on film remains a specialist interest, undiscovered by most cinema-goers – except for the sets and animations of their screen favourites. But Hustwit’s fascination with the subject is bound to rub off, which is great.

Objectified’s focus on product design gives it a head start, as more people knowingly respond to objects than to print. Mobile phones, furniture, computers and cars are the stuff of aspiration and peer pressure. And with (sometimes reluctant) media stars like Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson featuring, there will be recognition outside design of the players involved.

Cinema is a great medium for messages. What you see on the big screen stays with you and informs your views. Professor Sir Christopher Frayling’s talks on boffins in movies, from Dr Frankenstein to James Bond’s Q, show how our heroes and stereotypes are created in film.

But Hustwit’s work is not about fiction. His documentaries tell it how it is in our world to those who want to find out, and he should be encouraged to do more.

Design series on TV have been generally well received, even when they have had a business slant applied by the likes of the late Sir John Harvey-Jones or our own Richard Seymour and Dick Powell. We also know that quasi-architecture and interiors shows like Grand Designs attract viewers in droves.

So can we have more on design please, you directors out there? Viewers appear to be as interested in the process behind the work as they are in the products or the personalities.

Meanwhile, if any of you caught Objectified, I’d love to know what you thought. E-mail me at

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