If you're in the advertising, design or creative industries, you'll never be content with the knowledge you already have. You always want more. You want to learn, improve, grow and push yourself past those boundaries. It's only natural, because when you do, you become better. And one day, perhaps become the focus of a great documentary, to teach people what you have learned (so far).
So in the spirit of sharing the many great things that other people have learned from their careers, long or short, here are 6 documentaries you absolutely must watch. Seriously. Think of it has homework that's fun and could change your outlook on your whole career.
In no particular order:
Objectified (2009) is another dive into the world of design by Gary Hustwit, who also directed Helvetica. In Objectified, Hustwit goes a little broader than a film purely about typography, and in doing so cannot paint nearly the lavish picture. But saying that, Objectified is still an excellent and thought-provoking movie, and still one of the best documentaries made on the subject of industrial design.
Objectified examines the relationship that we, as consumers, have with the many products and objects around us. Everywhere, in so many ways, products are part of our lives, and they have all been designed. We drive to work in cars, work on computers, make calls on cell phones, wear shoes, watches, rain coats, eat pre-packaged food, and all of it has been touched by a designer. Sometimes, not for the better, either.
The September Issue (2009) is an exposé of the biggest fashion magazine out there, Vogue, and the woman who controls it all. Her name is Anna Wintour, she is the Editor-In-Chief at Vogue, and she rules the world of fashion.
Anyone who's ever seen "The Devil Wears Prada" will already be very familiar with the story here, although to be fair our lead here is much more likeable than the demon played by Meryl Streep.
That being said, Wintour is a strong woman, professionally uncompromising, and rules her world with an iron fist in a couture glove. She has to be. Anyone operating at this level, under this kind of pressure, cannot afford to be anything other than a powerhouse.
If you know the name Banksy (and if you're in this business and don't know it, where have you been?) then you already have a solid foundation for graffiti art and anti-establishment design. In fact, the name Banksy is so powerful that many people will be surprised to learn that this is not a film about Banksy himself, but rather an eccentric French chap called Thierry Guetta. But that doesn't make Exit Through The Gift Shop any less interesting. Far from it.
If you're reading this review, you should already know Helvetica - if not by name, then definitely by appearance. It is perhaps the most popular typeface of the last half a century, and has never gone out of style. But before we get into the film itself, a little background…
Helvetica is a typeface that was designed over 50 years ago, in 1957, by the type designer Max Meidinger. In the late fifties, there was a revival of older sans-serif typefaces like Akzidenz Grotesk (still used today) and Meidinger was commissioned by the Haas Type Foundary, in Switzerland, to design a new sans serif font in this style. He used Akzidenz Grotesk as a basis for his new font - Helvetica (a name derived from Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland). The rest, as they say, is history.
If there's a movie that sums up the current economic climate for creative professionals in America, it's Lemonade. The synopsis provided by IMDB.com includes this startling statistic:
"More than 130,000 advertising professionals have lost their jobs in this 'Great Recession'"
If that's not enough to send a shiver down your spine, you must have a really secure job (is there such a thing?), be independently wealthy, or you just don't care. Alas, most of us have none of the above, and that's why Lemonade is such a great movie to watch.
Say Milton Glaser to anyone associated with art, design or advertising, and the reaction is usually one of respect and awe. Milton Glaser is responsible for some of the most important and archetypal pieces of graphic design done in the twentieth century, including the "I ♥ NY" logo, Bob Dylan's psychedelic hair, and the bullet logo for DC comics (1977 - 2005). To say he is an icon would be to undersell the meaning of the word. And in 2009 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
If anyone deserves a documentary movie about their life's work, it's Milton Glaser. And Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight is quite the homage.