Objectified: The Meaning of Design

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  • samantha tweeted this on 10/23/2012
What does the design say about the designer?

What Apple product do you first remember seeing? Or using? Was it a MacBook? An iPhone? What is it about Apple that makes its products so appealing, so memorable, so desirable? What is it about Apple’s design that makes it, well, so good?

In the Documentary Objectified, the second part of a three-film “design trilogy” (read a write-up on the first film, Helvetica, here), director Gary Hustwit explores how manufacturing design and the objects we use every day (often without even thinking about them) affect our lives by becoming a part of our stories.

This begins to make sense once we recognize that from the moment we wake up almost everything that fills our world has been designed in one way or another. From the post-it note on our fridge to the potato peeler we’ll use to make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner to the digital camera that captures our favorite moments, the objects we use every day come from someone who created them for a specific purpose in a very intentional way. These objects not only greatly affect the practicalities and comfort of our day-to-day, they also make a statement about who we are and the way we live.

And what about the people who design them? In a world in which most things end up in a landfill and issues of sustainability and permanence complicate matters of design, the field of manufacturing design is changing rapidly. This film suggests that the beauty of design is not so much in the created products themselves, but in the designer’s ability to translate complex ideas and scenarios (such as those above) into reality. Are designers going to be the intellectuals and culture generators of the future? Gary Hustwit seems to be saying they already are.

What is it about Apple that has made it the world’s leading design innovator? Could it be the company’s ability to create products that communicate with users, connecting them to their product and to their customer’s own personal narrative? Is it that when you look at an Apple product you get a very clear sense both of what it’s for and for the people who designed it?

Objectified claims that every object, intentional or not, speaks to who put it there. What, then, is being said if we view ourselves as created beings embedded into a greater story of whatever, or whoever, put us here? How would this change your personal narrative? How would this change the way you look at the world?