Movie review: Objectified (2009)

Objectified looks into the world of industrial design and forays into the realm of designers. The movie weaves its way through different companies around the world and interviews designers along the way.

Although we do not typically think about it, everything we touch in our daily lives has been designed. The design of everyday objects has the potential to improve our lives without us even being aware.

Sadly, design isn’t always done well. Think of the plethora of chairs around…and how many of them you have encountered in your life that are uncomfortable. Too many objects are created without any thought for the user—is the peeler comfortable for people with arthritis to use?

There is a story behind every object, every design—from potato peeler to car. Thought had to be made about what the design would be and why.

Design may be culture-specific, fulfilling needs only found in a particular culture, like the Japanese toothpick. With grooves at the top, the top of the toothpick can be broken off and used as a toothpick holder in the manner of a chopsticks holder.

Objectified discusses the idea of sustainability. Time and attention is given to the idea that you design things to last rather than to be disposable items. A curious idea in the industrial design of consumer objects, but a very welcome one!

One designer broaches the idea of objects becoming better with age—a rare but lofty goal—such as his father’s briefcase that has improved with use over time. (A short story by Ray Bradbury that I read in my childhood came to mind. In the world that Bradbury created, instead of wearing out with use, things actually are maintained longer the more you use them.)

On the flip side, the idea of disposable was redesigned (so to speak) to encompass creating items with biodegradable materials. Even if items are quickly obsolete and discarded, they would have little impact on the environment and our health.

Ironically, Apple, which is always touted as a company incredibly focused (one might say obsessed) with design, is failing with design in terms of sustainability. The company has been moving away from sustainability rather than being a leader of it. Apple started fusing pieces of its products together, making them impossible to take apart, reuse, or recycle. Apple products represent the worst of disposable goods: goods that become obsolete quickly but last forever in landfills.

I’m intrigued by the opposite, the movement in industrial design towards disposable goods that last a long time but are gone quickly in landfills—or never make it there. Where are these truly innovative companies designing for sustainability?

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