Monday, November 23, 2009

Through his poignant documentary “Objectified,” director Gary Hustwit illuminates the purpose of design by investigating the process of design. Interviews with a variety of contemporary designers from around the world are the main vehicle for this investigation. In these interviews many common philosophies are uncovered. One of the most prevalent is that the primary goal of any design should be to enhance the lives of people. Although many of the designers who were interviewed were hired to design consumer objects they approached their jobs with this goal in mind.

Designing for long term use was one way they endeavored to achieve this. Dieter Rams, the former design director for Braun, commented “the arbitrariness and thoughtlessness with which things are produced” was causing us to have “too many unnecessary things everywhere.” The film shows footage of a brainstorming meeting between designers at IDEO which confronts this problem on a small scale. The design that came out of that session is a toothbrush with a wooden handle that uses only disposable tips. In so doing they not only limit the amount of plastic which is manufactured and disposed of, they also potentially increase the meaning of the object for the user. On a larger scale, this design may serve as an incremental step towards acclimating users to a culture which is more sustainable.

Although often achieved in small steps, by creating objects within a consumer culture, “Objectified” shows that designers are able to meet their most lofty objective. By determining not only the desires but the needs of people, and by producing something that meets those needs in the simplest way possible, for as long as possible, designers are able to enrich the lives of people.

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