Top 15 Design Documentaries


Are you bored with mainstream Hollywood movies? Try watching these 15 inspiring design documentaries as an alternative. You do not have to attend design school to understand these documentaries; otherwise these will provide basic understanding and stimulating insights to discuss afterwards.  This list includes movies related to graphic design, product design, architecture, and history of visual culture which were sorted by the year.

1. Why Man Creates (1968)
A classic animated documentary about the nature of creativity and the creative process. It also describes about some different approaches on creativity. This short documentary won the Academy Award on 1968.

2. Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century (1994)
Bauhaus is widely considered as the most revered design school of all time. This documentary reminisce Bauhaus development in Weimar (Germany), establishment in Dessau, until it was closed with reluctance by Nazi at Berlin. Nevertheless Bauhaus still influences design schools today.

3. Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2001)
A husband and wife, Charles and Ray Eames have accomplished the greatest design works of the 20th century in the field of furniture, art, architecture, photography, and film. It is engaging to see how the two of them works and supports each other.

4. Future by Design (2006)
This documentary conveys visionary ideas and inventions of Jacque Fresco, a futurist who often called as modern day Da Vinci. His inventions utilize innovative technology which is more advanced and ahead of its time. It will be interesting if we can see his ideas implemented in the future.

5. Helvetica (2007)
Helvetica is the precursor of Objectified and Urbanized, a trilogy of documentaries by Gary Hustwit. It celebrates the 50th years of the typeface, the history and pervasiveness of it. In general this documentary is about typography and how graphic design affects modern culture.

6. Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight (2008)
This documentary depicts the life of Milton Glaser and his creative works. Glaser is prominent for his iconic I Love NY campaign and the man behind The New York magazine. He is also a teacher and humanitarian.

7. Art & Copy (2009)
Get ready to be fascinated and sneak behind the US advertising industry. This documentary reveals the process of remarkable advertising campaign namely Just Do It (Nike), Think Different (Apple), and Got Milk (California Milk Processor).

8. Objectified (2009)
Every object around us is designed; every shapes and textures have purpose. Watch this documentary to learn more about human relationship with manufactured objects and the complex process behind them. Even a toothbrush is not as simple as it seems.

9. We Live in Public (2009)
Meet John Harris, an entrepreneur who was responsible for the dot com boom in the 1990s. He is Andy Warhol of the web and this documentary will bring you to the early days of internet and virtual world.

10. Design the New Business (2011)
Nowadays design and business are getting more and more inseparable. This documentary will explain further about their relation with numerous interviews and case studies from big corporations.

11. PressPausePlay (2011)
Are digital technology and democratized culture beneficial for creative workers? Despite the unlimited opportunities, it also offers many new challenges. This documentary interviews various contemporary creative workers from different fields such as Seth Godin, Lena Dunham, Olafur Arnalds to discuss this matter profoundly.

12. Urbanized (2011)
This final instalment of Gary Hustwit trilogy digs into wider subject, city and the importance of urban planning. It addresses some related issues along with the strategies to build city which priorities people’s needs, not for the cars or big corporations.

13. Design & Thinking (2012)
The term design thinking begins to be recognized since it can be used in problem solving regardless of the field. This documentary illustrates how design thinking can be applied in business model. It features some world leading businessman, designers, and educator such as David Kelley (IDEO), Alexander Osterwalder (Business Model Generation), and Vice Voron (Coca Cola North America).

14. Indie Game: The Movie (2012)
Finally, a movie about game! The story circulates around the journey of 3 independent game developers. Each strived to develop Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid. It portrays how they cope with problems like financial support, social life, and security.

15. Maker: A Documentary on the Maker Movement (2014)
Started with Do It Yourself (DIY) culture, maker movement combines the spirit with new technologies. Some people appointed it as the new wave of DIY or the third industrial revolution. The documentary states its impacts on society, culture, and economy in the US.

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