"When you see an object you make so many assumptions about that object, in seconds. What is does. How well it's going to do it. How heavy it is. How much you think it should cost. Every object, intentional or not, speaks to who put it there." And so begins the documentary film Objectified by Gary Hustwit.
Quickly though, the green enthusiast can be potentially disappointed, left wondering if any insight can come from this film, as the storyline continues: "The goal of industrial design has always been mass production: standardized objects for mass consumption of millions and millions of people," comments design critic Alice Rawsthorn of the International Herald Tribune.
Sounds depressing, right? It did to me, at least at first, but as I continued watching, my mind began to wander.
This truth about industrial design is, in fact, its history and it's still very much a reality. But designers do not act alone. They work in tandem with businesspeople of many types—clients, buyers, marketers—and they are just as constrained by budgets, client expectations, and performance goals as the rest of us, if not more so.
However, power lies with the consumer, and we are all consumers. We must understand that, to influence design, we have to apply our dollars where our vote lies. Demand drives creation, and creation comes in many forms. What form do you want to support?
Objectified brings these issues and many more to light. In explaining his design philosophy, Dieter Rams inspires: "Not only in the sector of consumer goods, but in architecture, in advertising, we have too many unnecessary things everywhere." Citing simplicity, among other design intentions, Rams leaves the viewer wondering why it is they ever purchased poorly-designed, wasteful products.
The insight into industrial design that Objectified offers will encourage viewers to define and scrutinize their purchasing habits and values. It's only when purchases are made for longevity and regenerative-impact, instead of low-impact, will a consumer no longer be objectified by designers and manufactures.
If you are interested in any kind of design—green, low impact, regenerative—watch this short 80-minute film. You will be inspired as you learn about industrial design, design intent, product life cycles, and your own purchasing habits. Available on the documentary's site for $20, the film is also accessible through Netflix.