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For the designer geek in your life, here is another documentary from the makers of Helvetica.

In Objectified, Gary Hustwit interviews dozens of industrial designers — designers of things. There are people designing computer keyboards, garden clippers, and automobiles. There is much talk of chairs. Someone mentions the design of a Japanese toothpick. The iPhone, of course, is popular. And Target and Ikea make appearances as purveyors of well-designed things.

Good design is practical, ergonomic, and occasionally expressive
Good design is practical, ergonomic, and occasionally expressive

Many of the interview subjects come across as thoughtful and down-to-earth. The secret to good design, so it seems, is a practical understanding of human nature and ergonomics. A few designers find expressive flourishes beyond pure ergonomics. Car designers, for example, are designing for personalities, and not just transportation. Only one interviewee, Karim Rashid, seems pretentious. He uses terms like “organotecnical” and “third technical revolution.” Or perhaps it’s his colored-plastic wardrobe that grates. At least the team of Dunne and Raby, who seemed headed in that direction, openly acknowledge that they’re designing for museums and to spark a conversation, and not for Target stores.

Many industrial designers are beginning to acknowledge that renewable and sustainable design is important. As one interview subject puts it, “most of the stuff I have designed is in landfills.” Another team described designing a kick-ass toothbrush, then vacationing in the pacific six months later, only to find their awesome product washed up on the beach, and despoiling paradise.

I wish I could say that Objectified takes you on a coherent journey through these various aspects of design, but it doesn’t. As interesting as each segment is, the movie feels like it’s missing a big picture, a point of focus, a raison d’etre. The designer in your life will enjoy the documentary, and you may too. But if you’re looking for a great film experience, look elsewhere.

DVD Extras

The Blu-ray disc just starts, which is an awesome design choice. After the feature, it kicks off the extra scenes in “play all” mode. I presume the filmmakers insisted on this behavior; if so, thank you. I wish more filmmakers followed your example.

The disc itself is encased in plastic, as are almost all Blu-ray titles. These plastic cases will wind up in the great Pacific continent of plastic, long after Blu-ray becomes obsolete. The heavy paper sleeve, however, will probably biodegrade if you forget to recycle it with your paper.

The only extra feature is 54 minutes of extra scenes. I found 54 minutes to be too much, especially after a tidy 75-minute feature. You can, however, find a menu of scenes, organized by the name of the interview subject.

Picture and Sound

The picture quality is excellent. The cutaways and handheld tours of offices and plants look good, but the interviews are impeccably clean.

How to Use This DVD

Remember the names of the interview subjects you like as you’re watching the film. That way you can jump to their extra footage at the end, rather than wading through the whole bonus section.