The South by Southwest festival in Austin hosted the world premiere of Objectified, a film by Gary Hustwit, the celebrated director of Helvetica, the fascinating and unlikely story behind a font you see absolutely everywhere.
Objectified is the equally fascinating and unlikely story behind the objects we see everywhere: industrial design, so invisible to most of us, shapes our lives every day with delight or frustration.
Hustwit anchored a packed panel with some of the design world luminaries who appeared in the movie and will be very familiar to Fast Company readers: Tim Brown of IDEO, Stuart Constantine of Core77, Davin Stowell of Smart Design, and journalist Rob Walker. Focused as it was on stuff, the panel brought a welcome breath of realism into an Interactive conference that at time has frankly felt curiously disconnected from the market-melting, credit-crunching, world-warming reality out here.
The panelists gave credit to companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart and Mattel for promoting more sustainability in packaging and longevity. Stowell talked about getting out of the planned obsolescence trap and designing objects that last and inspire an emotional connection.
Brown talked about not designing objects at all—designers can design services and brands instead. Interaction designers with the Design Council UK are being hired by the British government to design social programs like health care, and IDEO worked on a project to make people excited about energy conservation. "Frankly, these new types of problems are what the young hires want to work on," he said.
Hustwit said that in the process of making the movie (which you can catch in a series of screenings in several cities) his own relationship to consumption has changed, so that now he's more committed and considered in his purchasing choices.
And, he suggested, one beneficial implication of ubiquitous technologies like Facebook, Twitter, etc. is that even the most consumerist or brand-obsessed of us are spending more time constructing our identities by doing things, rather than buying things.
A message we can all relate to these days.
Top to bottom: Objects included in the film were an IKEA chair, Muji CD player by Naoto Fukasawa, Leica camera, OXO Good Grip vegetable peeler by Smart Design, and some kind of laptop computer.
Related: Gary Hustwit's "Objectified [video]