The designers interviewed in “Objectified” might agree on one principle: That with a well-designed object, you often don’t even notice the design.
If that’s supposed to be true for Gary Hustwit’s movie as well, then he has succeeded.
“Objectified” is a fluid investigation into the way our world is filled with things that someone designed — and what that says about us.
Hustwit’s previous movie was the wonderful “Helvetica,” an entire feature documentary about a single, ubiquitous typeface.
This new film takes a much broader scope, and in some ways this means it has less definition.
We meet a collection of international designers, all of whom burn with the kind of focus that leads you to suspect they’d probably be doing their jobs even if they didn’t get paid for it. Sophisticated geeks, you might say.
The film isn’t really a history of design, although there’s a useful anecdote about the birth of mass production.
We are told a Chinese emperor ordered arrows and bows to be made to a standard size and shape, because warriors couldn’t use the leftover weapons of a dead comrade if each was making arrows in whatever size they wanted.
From there, we are introduced to the fat rubber handles that have lately become popular for knives and peelers, which came about because of users with arthritis.
One expert notes that design shouldn’t be about the average person’s needs, but the user at the ends of the spectrum.
A European designer extols Apple as the only American corporation that really cuts the edge when it comes to design. Sure enough, we visit an Apple workshop, where one man coos about the sleekness of the latest laptop, and the genius of placing an indicator light in such a way that we won’t know it exists unless the light happens to go on.
The film raises a lot of interesting questions. One designer ponders the way form has departed from function. Old-school products — a chair, for instance — pretty much look like what they’re for.
But if you didn’t know already, what would you make of an iPhone? Or a CD player?
The issue of what happens to all these products is brought up, since so many of them are destined to be landfill someday, no matter how beautiful or functional they are.
The movie’s threads don’t quite come together, but you’ll probably be absorbed enough so you don’t see the seams.
And Hustwit fills the screen with handsome items, as though in awe of them. He’s all for intelligent design, at least in this sense.