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Movie review: Objectified

I was hesitant to comment about Objectified, until I realized the people reading this blog are potentially interested in this documentary film about industrial design, directed by Gary Hustwit, who made the Helvetica.

Sadly, the film is simply not worth seeing. I say “sadly,” because I think there’s demand for a smart film on this subject. In fact, there’s demand for smart films on a range of design issues. Objectified, though, is a surprisingly disappointing collection of talking heads. It’s a bloodless film that communicates little passion for design. Hustwit has no discernible point of view, and simply presents a bunch of voices that add up to nothing. And the most compelling voice (and the only one truly critical of the role of industrial design), Rob Walker, gets perhaps the least amount of screen time.

I identified two primary flaws with the film.

1. The subjects were boring to watch
Unlike Helvetica, which had some quirky personalities and energy, the talking heads in this film were even-keeled energy sucks. The most obvious attempt at quirk, Karim Rashid, was simply insufferable.

2. Trying to do too much
It turns out “industrial design” covers so many potential topics, and Hustwit cruises over too many too fast. Whereas Helvetica had a remarkably narrow focus, Objectified touches on mass production, mass consumption, sustainability, interaction design, design processes, design as identity, and much much more.

Pretty much the only coherent thing about the film is that male industrial designers have an… interesting… relationship to facial hair, and closely-cropped head hair. There’s something going on there, but I can’t quite figure out what.

  1. I’m really surprised by your review. I just saw the movie and loved it. I wasn’t bored for a single minute. I don’t know how anyone who is interested in industrial design could find the movie boring. The “talking heads” are all fascinating people who have something interesting to say about design. I don’t get it.

  2. I too enjoyed the film, agreed it’s not Helvetica but to say it’s not worth seeing is going too far. Go see it, it’s inspiring entertainment, key word “entertainment”. My humble opinion.

  3. I thought the film was a commercial for feel-good consumerism, and a range of obsolete industrial design ideas and practices. I’m a designer, so maybe my perspective is different.

    The “talking heads” were not bringing anything new to the design table. “Sustainability” is almost 30 years old and now “we’re” giving credit to Rashid for talking about cardboard cell phones in 2009?

    Other old models to look out for: Craftspeople and stylists masquerading as designers. Here’s a review that might interest you:


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