New Video // 2009 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // January 13th, 2013
Good design is as little design as possible.
As time has passed, we have become more and more obsessed with devices, objects, and "stuff" in general, from computers to flat-screen TVs to smartphones to stylish but poorly crafted Swedish furniture. We can't get enough; once we have the latest thing, all we want is the next latest thing. There seems to be no end to it, but in spite of our obsession with these things, rarely do we reckon with what goes into making them both functional and pleasing to the eye, two of the things that mean a lot toward enticing people to buy.
In Objectified, director Gary Hustwit (Helvetica) gives a window into the design aspect of common and not so common items that we interact with every day. In talking with the people who conceptualize and design these products, Hustwit delivers a interesting and incisive look at a field that is ubiquitous in all facets of the world of industry, but is very often overlooked by the public whom these designers are working to please.
Design is funny, because the more effective the design is, the less consumers will notice it, almost by intention. There are instances in which this isn't true, especially with companies like Apple and their products, but things like indicator lights, joints, and buttons are almost universally overlooked, even though they are as meticulously designed as the greater body of the piece. It's only when the design is terrible that people take much notice.
All of this, and designers' individual philosophies about their profession, are discussed in great detail over the course of Objectified. The disparity of opinions about it from the various is quite interesting, letting the audience know that there is no one answer to the question of what design is. Like in Helvetica, Hustwit gives the material to think about what design means, this time with objects instead of fonts, without giving hard answers or really even leading the audience anywhere. This is a documentary that provokes thought instead of making any real case, and it works extremely well on that front. I have little experience with design, but Objectified taught me plenty about the principles and, hopefully, will make me think more acutely in this when I look into products in the future. Good show from Hustwit in bringing a relatively obscure topic to light.
Objectified arrives from New Video in a nice looking Blu-ray release. The 1.78:1/1080p transfer looks great, with a clean and simple esthetic befitting the film's subject matter. The white and grey palette is sharp and bright, with a consistent crispness and detail throughout the film. The only real issue is the skin tones, which are occasionally a little too bright and get blown out and splotchy. It's a small thing and not a big deal, but it's there at different points. The sound is equally strong, with a stereo mix that is as dynamic as one could expect from a documentary almost exclusively populated by talking heads. The dialog is always clear and the music sounds great; the mix goes above and beyond your usual documentary audio.
Extras are limited to additional interviews, though a full 45-minutes worth, but if the film entices you, they are nothing but quality. Some stuff is repeated from the movie, with added footage, but all of it is interesting. I don't think any of this footage would have made the movie any better, but I'm glad is here. The only problem is that the disc has no base menu screen; the movie starts when the disc is inserted, so you have to go to the sub-menu while the movie plays to access them, which is a small thing, but took some searching on my part to find them.
Objectified is an excellent extension of Helvetica and will likely be a great prelude to the final film in Hustwit's design trilogy, Urbanized, which I have not seen. If you're looking to get hard answers about what design means and how it affects things, this isn't the movie for you. Instead, it makes the audience members ask those questions of themselves, look at the things around them, and assess what design means in their own minds. In a field that is a pure combination of function and esthetic, that's exactly how it should be.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Interviews
* Official Site