Five years ago I began work on my first documentary, Helvetica, which looked at the worlds of typography and graphic design, and their impact on our visual environment. After Helvetica was released in 2007, I had the idea for a second film, Objectified, which focused on industrial design and product design, and our relationship with the manufactured objects that surround us. While working on Objectified, I realized I wanted to make a third film that would also examine how design affects our lives, and began thinking of the films as a “design trilogy” of sorts.
The third documentary in this trilogy is about the design of cities. Urbanized looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design, featuring some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers. Over half the world’s population now lives in an urban area, and 75% will call a city home by 2050. But while some cities are experiencing explosive growth, others are shrinking. The challenges of balancing housing, mobility, public space, civic engagement, economic development, and environmental policy are fast becoming universal concerns. Yet much of the dialogue on these issues is disconnected from the public domain.
Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized will frame a global discussion on the future of cities.
Urbanized is currently in production and will premiere in 2011. We’ll be releasing more details about the cities, projects, and people featured in the film in the next few months, along with a proper site. Once again I’ve teamed up with cinematographer Luke Geissbuhler, and I hope you’ll follow along as we complete the film and finish this third exploration into the role of design in our lives.
For the time being, my Twitter feed is probably the best way to keep up with news during this process. Comments, questions, suggestions? info[at]urbanizedfilm[dot]com
“Documenting Design” L to R: Eames Demetrios, Doug Pray, Michael Bierut, Gary Hustwit
I’ve just returned from two weeks in Africa, partly to attend the fantastic Design Indaba conference in Cape Town. I was on a panel called “Documenting Design” along with my friend Doug Pray(Scratch, Art & Copy) and Eames Demetrios, filmmaker and grandson of Charles and Ray Eames. The conversation, which was moderated by designer and Helvetica show-stealer Michael Bierut, was too short! It was one of those situations where after 30 minutes I thought we were really getting into an interesting discussion about the creatives processes of designers, and our processes as filmmakers. After the panel, Eames, Doug and I sat down for the Design Indaba video crew and continued the discussion for another 45 minutes, so hopefully they’ll post that video on their site soon.
One of the most surreal moments of the conference happened during a dinner train trip the organizers had planned for all the speakers on the Blue Train. Along with dinner and drinks, there were blackjack tables in one car of the train where guests could partake in some play money gaming. Being a man who loves his cards, I joined in, but suddenly found myself sharing a blackjack table with Martha Stewart. She may know paint chips, but she don’t know blackjack. When she hit a 14 against the dealers 6, I was like, “Martha, Martha, Martha…” shaking my head. Somehow she ended up winning though… go figure.
I also presented screenings of Helvetica and Objectified, the first time the films had been shown publicly in South Africa. Thanks to everyone who came out to the shows, and special thanks to the Design Indaba team for such a great experience.
“The story of America for the past 60 years is essentially tied to the story of our stuff. From cars to clothes to refrigerators that simulate the Arctic better than, well, the Arctic, we as a culture love our objects. But as economic and environmental tides shift, we’re faced with the fact that we simply can’t continue as we have been. You might rightly argue that we’ve designed our way into this mess, but can we design our way out? Join Dwell editor Aaron Britt and our panel of thought-leaders for a discussion that touches on how we relate to the objects in our lives, how they shape the world around us, and what we can do to about it.”
If you’re in the Bay Area, please join us at a panel discussion (with drinks) this Friday evening:
Objectified in America:
Design, Consumerism and Sustainability in Our Changing Economy
With panelists Gary Hustwit, Bill Moggridge (IDEO), Philip Wood (Citizen: Citizen), and Tom Dair (Smart Design), moderated by Dwell Magazine’s Aaron Britt.
Friday, April 24th, 6:30pm to 8:30pm
1 Market St. Suite 200
San Francisco Get tickets.
If you’re in Minneapolis/St. Paul, you need to go to this tonight. And if you’re not in the Twin Cities, you can watch it live on the web, from 7pm to 9pm, CST. Snuggle up with your laptop and watch some serious Dutch punk rock modernists in action. It might be a lecture, or maybe they’ll just sit on stage and spin records? You never know with the Jetset…
Big news in the car design world: Objectified cast member Chris Bangle has left BMW after 16 years as the company’s design chief. “Bangle’s plan to pursue his own design-related endeavours beyond the auto industry marks the start of a new phase in his life while maintaining strong ties with the BMW Group,” BMW said in a statement.
This Saturday in New York City, the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (whew) presents Helvetica: Typography and Literacy: a free screening of Helvetica and all-star roundtable discussion. The film will screen at 1pm, followed by a roundtable at 2:30pm with myself, lettering artist Christopher Calderhead, New York Times Magazine Art Director Arem Duplessis, calligrapher Elinor Aishah Holland, and artist Elaine Lustig Cohen, moderated by SVA design god and man-of-a-thousand-design-books Steven Heller.
Four big reasons to go:
1) It’s free (first come, first seated)
2) This roundtable is going to be crazy
3) It might be the only public Helvetica screening I’ll be participating in this year
4) The Philoctetes Center got burned in the Madoff scandal, lost their funding, and could really use your support
Dutch design activists and musicologists Experimental Jetset have (finally!) updated their website and online archive, which gets us caught up on the last three years of their output. Why the wait? A) They’ve been busy, uhm, designing lots of things, and stressing out about it. And B) They write detailed essays about the process, design strategy, and philosophical underpinnings of every project, with meticulous photos. I like the preview mode, where you can view thumbnails of their entire archive on one page. Great stuff, guys!
And I really want the “I Want Less” T-shirt. Yes, I appreciate the irony of the preceding sentence.
Today is World AIDS Day, and (RED) has collaborated with Objectified participants IDEO to launch a new digital music service, (RED)WIRE, to help fight AIDS in Africa. For $5 a month, you get an exclusive new song every week from artists like Bob Dylan, Cat Power, Elvis Costello, and Death Cab for Cutie, and 50% of that money goes directly to purchase anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS patients in African countries. Think of it as a digital music magazine that saves lives.
You’re invited to the second lecture in SVA’s “Dot Dot Dot” series, featuring Objectified director Gary Hustwit and three other speakers giving four talks in forty minutes. This month’s topic:
We often see the final result — whether it be a product, a feature film, or a short story. But behind these strong finishes are strong interviewers who conducted bodies of research to inform the outcomes we now enjoy. Whether the fit and finishes of those interviews are visible or not, these interviewers play a pivotal role in shaping the final outcome. Learn from four practitioners how they ask the questions to get the answers they need; how disparate and unexpected research methods can inform the final outcome.
Speakers: Gary Hustwit, Director, Helvetica, Objectified Jason Severs, Principal Designer, frog design Clive Thompson, New York Times Magazine and Wired magazine Elisabeth M. De Morentin, Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design
Monday, December 8, 6pm to 8pm
145 E Houston Street, New York, NY Update: this event is now sold out.
The “Dot Dot Dot” Lecture Series is meant for broad explorations of interaction design, business, and aesthetic inspiration. Practitioners and thought leaders give short talks in an informal setting. Wisdom will be revealed and methods will be shared in a environment intended to satisfy both social and scholarly pursuits.