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.