From Dieter Rams to Ken Garland: designers we’d like to see documentaries on

Last week, American director Gary Hustwit announced he was creating a documentary about product designer Dieter Rams. Now, we ask the question – which designer would you like to see a documentary about?

Adrian Shaughnessy, designer, writer and senior tutor, Royal College of Art
Adrian Shaughnessy, designer, writer and senior tutor, Royal College of Art

“Very few designers could withstand the scrutiny of a documentary. A suitable subject for a documentary – such as Dieter Rams – needs to be doing significant work and have a personality that doesn’t wither in front of the camera. Confining my thoughts to graphic designers, only one individual comes to mind: Ken Garland. After a long career that began in the revolutionary 1960s, Ken still stands as a blueprint for how the contemporary designer can function. Ethical but not puritanical, talented but never self-indulgent, Ken also has one other essential requirement – he has interests and expert knowledge in subjects outside of his discipline.”

Lance Wyman, graphic designer © Neila
Lance Wyman, graphic designer © Neila

“Robert Brownjohn is the designer who comes to mind first when I think of work that impressed me as a young designer. He was the guy who gave life to ordinary images. He photographed interesting details in every day neighbourhoods, which helped me to see things differently. He manipulated standard typography to enhance its meaning in a way that made people fall in love with it. He embedded his visual magic in simple black and white images and complex film titles. He was a genius whose work touched me and had an important influence on design.”

Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, creative director, Studio Minerva
Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, creative director, Studio Minerva

“‘I have always believed in progress and in creativity’s role in progress – that’s why I remain critical of any traditionalism.’ Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

I would love to see a documentary celebrating the amazing life and work of Zaha Hadid. She persistently pushed creative boundaries to create soaring architecture which left a mark on skylines and imaginations across the globe. Hadid liberated structural geometry with the creation of highly expressive, sweeping forms of multiple perspective points. She also became the first woman to be awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in her own right. I feel that she is a great role model for young creative women who also want to leave their mark on the world.”

Erika Clegg, co-founder, Spring
Erika Clegg, co-founder, Spring

“I’d be fascinated to know more about The Ministry of Information’s Publicity Producers group. Apart from its mind-bendingly Orwellian name, and the names of its subgroups (these days they would be spun to something more palatable), the MOI’s production of some iconic designs including the lamentably over-used ‘Keep Calm…’ is astonishing – especially in a time of uncertainty and as an outpost of government.

In fact, they proved unpopular, especially the Press Relations and Publicity Users groups, who the media felt (rightly) were limiting their access to news. But the MOI had the eye, employing great talents including Paul Nash and Dylan Thomas. In these fractious times, it would be good to hear about this wartime full-service communications team, whose work was fundamental to the morale of the British people and the strategy of its government.”

Neville Brody, founder, Brody Associates
Neville Brody, founder, Brody Associates

“Tibor Kalman was an inspirational, prickly, cantankerous and vital designer. Hungary to New York, he was smart, provocative and on-button, always exposing the other side, be it through wit or politics: album covers for Talking Heads; powerful editorial and art-direction revealing our social beliefs in Colors Magazine; smart-ass restaurant narratives or the M&Co. clock in my studio with all the numbers in the wrong place. I once saw him give a lecture in Hungarian at a key design conference in the US while presenting holiday postcards. A man of huge influence and presence, he was never afraid to call out the hypocritical, the greedy, the prejudiced. Playful and earnest, he knew how to poke a hornet’s nest. How we need his voice now.”


Briar Levit, director, Graphic Means documentary
Briar Levit, director, Graphic Means documentary

“This question is near and dear to my heart, because I actually hope to make a documentary about women of the Soviet Avant Garde some day – namely Varvara Stepanova and Lyubov Popova. Despite the fact that these two artists/designers made incredibly vibrant paintings, textiles and printed matter, they are often overshadowed by their more famous male counterparts (Stepanova was married to Aleksandr Rodchenko). How incredible would it be to dive deep into the worlds of two women who were minorities within their field, and who worked during a most incredible transition to a Communist society?”

Matt Baxter, Baxter and Bailey
Matt Baxter, creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“I have two answers – firstly, I’d love to see a documentary made on the work of Ken Adam (or, to give the man his full title, Sir Kenneth Adam OBE). Can you imagine a more cinematic subject? The cavernous, Cold War-futuristic Bond sets he designed, back on the big screen; the War Room in Dr. Strangelove; he even designed the titular vehicle in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. On top of all that, he was one of only three German-born pilots in the wartime RAF and died this year at a ripe old 95. Cinematic gold, I’m sure you’ll agree. Secondly (and not strictly a documentary), can someone please make a dramatisation of Peter Saville’s mid-90s adventures? We could call it Peter Savile: The Pentagram Years. I’d like to see Steve Coogan in the title role and Toby Jones as John McConnell. A meeting (and parting) of great minds in London’s Westbourne Park with New Order on the soundtrack – five stars.”

Hide Comments (5)Show Comments (5)
  • George July 1, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I’d love to see a documentary on Mark Farrow, my favourite graphic designer. I’d love to get a closer look at the Farrow studio and hear from some of their clients e.g Pet Shop Boys, Camper, Peyton and Byrne

  • Hemant July 4, 2016 at 8:35 am

    1. Victor Papanek
    2. Buckminster Fuller

  • Mike Rawling July 4, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Walter Dorwin Teague.

    Perhaps a documentary of the top four at the birth of industrial/product design – Henry Dreyfuss, Walter Dorwin Teague, Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes

  • Briar Levit July 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    There actually is a documentary about Walter Dorwin Teague that I’ve been meaning to watch:!

  • Les Clark July 11, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Barney Bubbles!

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