5 Design Films Graphic Designers will Love

The predictable formula, glamorous cast and explosions over substance of a Blockbuster movie can be comforting, but if you’re looking for something a little more creative then we’ve got you covered.

For every budget-busting movie out there, there’s a catalogue of creative movies about design that hold the potential to fire you up on your next project. Whether you have a passion for street art, motion graphics or a penchant for typography, here are five films about design that graphic artists will love. And… “action!”

1. Factory Girl (2006)

Starring Sienna Miller, Factory Girl is a biographical film on the life of Edie Sedgwick that gives insight into one of the most famous creative minds of the 20th century. The film also offers an alternate perspective into the life of Andy Warhol and his famous art studio. Anyone with a penchant for pop art will be well aware of Warhol’s work on display in the film. Beyond that though, the outstanding design and eclectic soundtrack conjures up a beautiful portrayal of Warhol’s flair and accomplishments like no other movie before it.

Having said all of that, Factory Girl actually received negative reviews and was heavily criticised by two of the main characters portrayed in the film, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. In the New York Daily News Reed said:

“I read that script. It’s one of the most disgusting, foul things I’ve seen – by any illiterate r****d – in a long time.”

Controversial stuff indeed. So, epic fail or epic biopic? We suspect that for designers it will be the latter. Give it a watch and let us know your verdict on Twitter @artworkbazaar.

2. Helvetica (2007)

While any of Hustwit’s design trilogy could have been added to this list, this independent feature-length documentary about the Helvetica typeface is our choice. Of the film, Kyle Bergman, founder of the country’s largest film festival dedicated to architecture and design, said:

“Can you really make a whole movie on a font? This was a surprising one. It’s a design story that engages the audience from beginning to end. Gary told a great story.”

Helvetica focuses on how one typeface can shape and affect an entire culture. This film personifies the typeface, reveals the faces behind Helvetica and the creative intricacies required to design it – no matter how simple or natural it may seem. The film was also aptly released on the 50th year anniversary of the typeface in 2007. More than 10 years on, this film is still a gem for anyone who loves typography or is just curious to see what all the hype was about. It’s also incidentally available on Netflix – get in! After watching this you’ll also be amazed at just how often you’ll see Helvetica in your daily life.

3. Sketches of Frank Gehry (2006)

A film with quirky independent vibes, Sketches of Frank Gehry beautifully documents the life of the Canadian-born American architect, who was dubbed “the most important architect of our age” by Vanity Fair in 2010. His works were also cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey.

All of the scenes were shot with handheld cameras to document Gehry’s progression from his early educational influences rooted in modernism to the surreal architecture of today. Screened at the 2006 Cannes film festival, the documentary not only gives an in-depth look at the life and career of Gehry, it also looks at the mind behind the cameras and lifelong friend of Gehry, Sydney Pollack. In fact, Sketches is one of the very few documentaries directed by Pollack. It’s the ideal film for designers inspired by both architecture and biographical films.

4. Frida (2002)

Salma Hayek portrays artist Frida Kahlo de Rivera in this biopic drama, which brings several of her most famous paintings to life. Portrait artists and fans of magical realism will appreciate the paintings. Frida explores Mexican culture, questions of identity, post-colonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society. While Frida’s life is typical of many artists who became celebrated after their time, it is framed in a way that will inspire anyone regardless of their creative interests.

Graphic designers that work in film will also love the creative use of first frame paintings that dissolve into live action scenes. There are also stop motion animation sequences used to depict the initial stages of Kahlo’s recovery within the film.

5. The City Dark (2011)

A more philosophical selection to add into the mix, this feature documentary asks one question only:

Do we need the dark?

The City Dark explores how the world is becoming more urbanised at an accelerated rate. Set in New York, aptly known as the city that never sleeps, The City Dark asks if there is a pathological consequence to the 24/7 lifestyle that humanity is approaching. Is our man-made illumination of the world evolution of our planet or are we polluting the skies and destroying a natural cycle which has guided life for billions of years?

Despite it’s dark undertones, the film has a rhythm and poetic quality that makes it stand out as a piece of art in motion. A Games Radar review said:

“These days, saying that a movie’s been directed like a pop video has become a sly insult, although in this case it’s a credit to Proyas. He edits the film at a rush, drawing on his promo and ad background, yet never so self-consciously stylistically or quickly that you lose track of what’s happening.”

Regardless of your outlook, the sweeping shots of a city submerged in artificial light are almost poignant but unashamedly inspiring.

All in a day’s work: a valid excuse for a movie binge

It’s time to peel yourself away from that blank screen, walk away from todays ‘wheel of death’ cycle and get out of your creative funk. You can make your way through these movies about design safe in the knowledge that it’s a valid work-related activity. Because sometimes, all you need is a break and a fresh perspective – now, pass the popcorn.

Not done scrolling yet? You might also want to check out our list of 6 designer coworking spaces around the world. You can also find out more about Artwork Bazaar here.


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