Disappointed with Objectified

[Edited: Grammar and Phrasing]

I really was not going to write much this week, being sick and all. But after a blog post and comment exchange, I cannot help but feel fired up to share some of my thoughts here.
I’m sure by now most of you would have heard about Objectified, a documentary on Industrial Design by Gary Hustwit of Helvetica fame. News of it is running all over the design blogosphere, I caught wind of it from Core77.
When I first read about it, I thought “GREAT!” more exposure on our wonderful industry. But after reading about the list of designers being considered, I could not believe my eyes! The list seems to cover the stereotypes what Industrial Designers “are” or “should be”. Not surprisingly, the documentary picked a “sample space” of designers which were the usual list of design superstar suspects.
So I decided to visit the Objectified website, and to my surprised it was a blog. I though good, they want to talk, so I left a comment (reproduced here):

Great to see this and am excited on its release. However I did noticed a serious lack of viewpoints from Asian designers. As it is now, I think this would biased the film towards the usual designer suspects from the west, the majority of which the world already know a lot about. They are the so called “design superstars”.
Asian design will be a strong player in the next 5-10 years or less, and I would have liked to see a revolutionary film such as this, cover a truly global view of design.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would be interested in some recommendations or viewpoints of designers trying to make a difference in the East.
Regards
dt

About a day later, here was my reply from Gary Hustwit.

DT – Ditto. Asian design and designers definitely factor into our discussion in the film. I think Naoto Fukasawa is doing some amazing work. And if we felt we had to showcase a designer from each country in the world with an active design scene/history, we’d only be able to spend a minute with each person. This isn’t that kind of film.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the reply? But suffice to say I was a little surprised and disappointed at this comment reply. Does this mean that Gary considers Naoto a representation of Asian design in general? Or was Naoto only worthy enough to be included?
Let us now look at the about page for a little more information on the documentary.

Objectified is a feature-length independent documentary about industrial design. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the people who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. It’s about our relationship to mass-produced objects and, by extension, the people who design them.
Through vérité footage and in-depth conversations, the film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?
(Bold text are mine.)

I have nothing against Gary, and I do not intend to demean all the fantastic work he has put into both his films and its betterment of the design industry.
However from my stand point there is so much more Asian design can offer the world, and this documentary has an opportunity to share the complete picture rather than the usual choice stereotypes which will unfortunately biased the production.
What about Niti Bhan’s work focusing on the Bottom of Pyramid (BOP)? What about Yao Ying Jia, Lenovo’s Director of Design, looking at new computing archetypes? Or Haier’s White Goods taking the world by storm, but still finding time to connect with the local Chinese farmers with vegetable washing machines?
While we are at it, lets not just only focus on Asian design, what about other aspects of Industrial Design that are not quite entirely mainstream but equally as important?
What about the future of our designed and materials ecosystem? Notably missing are designers leading the forefront of sustainable design such as Janine Benyus. What about the impact of Industrial Design by rapid prototyping technology as explored by Gershenfeld and reBang? How about Brands such as Philips and their efforts in future probing so that our lives with technology can so much better? This is by-far not an exhaustive list, but granted, not as sexy as Objectified’s list that contains the superstars like Bangle from BMW, Ive from Apple or the Bouroullec brothers etc.
So as Gary said “This isn’t that kind of film”, so I like to ask just what kind of film should it be?
All that being said, I am looking forward to the documentary. There is not enough being done to expose the industry in this way, but I cant help feeling that it could have been just this much better.

8 Comments
  • brian

    July 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm Reply

    i guess that is always a limitation of the cinematic medium, having to condense so much story down to a palatable viewing time. (1hr, 2hrs.. 3hrs)
    maybe for a broader view as you are suggesting, a documentary series will provide the in-depth answers that you seek?
    -) but for now, i’m glad that there’s you to shed some light about the industry too -)

  • Raj

    July 30, 2008 at 2:03 pm Reply

    i think there should be equal sharing of people from different parts of the design world, not just the very west…but even the east playing much versatile role in the filed of design.

  • Gary Hustwit

    July 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm Reply

    D.T., you bring up some excellent points here, and trust me they’re all issues (ideological, technical, and geographical) that we’ll be doing our best to cover in the finished film. As our website says: “More participants TBA”. So perhaps you can wait until we actually finish the film next year before passing judgement?
    Thanks,
    -Gary

  • DT

    July 30, 2008 at 2:52 pm Reply

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. I appreciate it.
    Please don’t get me wrong. I am not passing any judgments here, but making suggestions for improvements based on the information available.
    In fact, I am ALL for the film and will be doing my best to get it when it is out. I am even looking to sign up with the “Friends of Objectified” to show my support.
    Really though, it is only because I’ve seen the

  • DT

    July 30, 2008 at 2:56 pm Reply

    Hi brian,
    Thanks for the comment. I do fully agree, there is only so much a film can show, but the potential for a much greater impact is there as Gary Hustwit can possibly present an unbiased view.
    Hi Raj,
    I fully agree with you as well. That is why I am passionate about these suggestions I made. If only…as I always like to day.

  • Gary Hustwit

    July 30, 2008 at 8:45 pm Reply

    I am not passing any judgments here, but making suggestions for improvements based on the information available.
    In that case perhaps the title of this post should’ve been “Suggested Improvements for Objectified”… Regardless, I really do appreciate your input, it’s one if the reasons I launched the film’s website early. I’m not an expert on industrial design, but one of the best things about a project like this is learning more from the people who are.

  • csven

    August 7, 2008 at 9:10 am Reply

    As I was traveling I didn’t pay much attention to this bit of design news, but have to say that it doesn’t much matter to me if the film accurately depicts the profession or not. After all: Industrial Design is dead.
    So rather than concern myself with a period piece, I’ll concentrate on what’s coming next. After all, most future influentials are today’s unknowns.
    p.s. – I hope Gary interviews the newly(?) self-declared “innovation guru” Bruce Nussbaum. Perhaps he can convince Bruce to unseal the evidence since my query was censored.
    p.s.s – And I hope you’ll be participating in the Superstruct serious game/future forecasting design effort, Brian. I’ll be one of the assistants helping Jamais Cascio, Jane McGonical and a group of interesting game masters bring a kind of “consumer encounter”-crowdsourcing approach to serious gaming. Should be educational for all involved.

  • DT

    August 9, 2008 at 9:54 am Reply

    Hi csven,
    I was looking if Bruce was part of the people interviewed, but there is no information available. That does not mean he is not being considered…
    That Superstruct is a fantastic initiative. I’m looking forward to it and have already signed up!

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