" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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Design, Volume 2, is another six-pack from the makers of Design: notably the Pompidou Center in Paris along with other art promoters.

As in the first volume, Design, Volume 2, is about recognizing something iconic, then meeting the people and companies who made it , and investigating the rules, precepts, and inspirations from which they worked. This set looks at the Concorde, the Vespa scooter, the Lounge Chair by Chales and Ray Eames, the Leica, the Bookworm book rack, and the Conica coffee maker.

Form and Function

The bookworm bookshelf worms its way around your wall
The bookworm bookshelf worms its way around your wall

The DVD as a whole is a mixed bag because there are six short films (25 minutes each). When they are bad, it’s because they are slow and sparse. Footage of the Leica rotating, rotating, with no narrator to imparting facts, feels like it was shot and edited by someone with a misplaced obsession. Sometimes it feels like the writers are padding their scripts with tangents (do we really need to know the history of the book to appreciate a bookshelf?), and sometimes it feels like they lose focus by jumping from subject to subject (a baseball game on a certain day in 1951 somehow pertains to the Lounge Chair).

When the segments are good, however, the tangents look more like context. It seems important to know that it was post-World-War-II Italy that gave birth to the Vespa scooter. When the segments are good, the jumps build a multi-faceted perspective, such as the surprisingly complex manufacturing process in producing a perfectly conical cap to the coffee maker.

The best of the bunch are the Concorde, because its design is so all-encompassing, and the Conica, because its design is so simple. The dud of the batch is the Leica, renowned for its reliability, which Design acknowledges but doesn’t explain. Then again, these segments are varied enough to inspire different reactions in different viewers. By all means leave a comment about your own favorites.

At only 25 minutes each, these films are easy to watch, and if you are (or love) a professional designer, they are essential. But they are not so good that they’ll appeal to an otherwise uninterested audience. Give Design 2 a look if you’re curious. You know who you are.

Picture and Sound

The individual films were produced as early as 1998 and as late as 2007. Since they were all shot on video, Picture quality doesn’t suffer from age, although sound quality and the apparent awe of the computer-generated special effects are dated.

DVD Extras

There are no extra features; just the six segments.

How to Use This DVD

As with the first DVD, feel free to jump around. Watch one that interests you, and then just to surprise yourself, pick the one you think will be the least interesting.