Design Thinking on Film

As we discovered at the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York last year, good films about design are few and far between. Even among these, it is easier to find films about designers, design disciplines, or objects. But a film about design theory? Now that’s a truly ambitious project.

In March this year, Yuhsiu Yang and Melissa Huang of the Taipei Design Center U.S. teamed up with film makers Mu-Ming Tsai and Iris Lai of Muris Media to make a film about one of the most elusive concepts designers have come up with in the last couple of decades – Design Thinking. Even though the term has been bandied about since the 1970’s, and used as a mantra by some of the biggest creative consultancies,  we’re still debating if it is relevant, indeed if it means anything at all.

This week, the four film makers, who are calling themselves One Time Studio, have officially released the trailer for their film, and it looks impressive enough. They’ve got a lot of big guys—like Smart Design’s Dan Formosa, and AIGA CEO Richard Grefé—to talk about why designers felt the need to qualify what they do with the word “thinking.” (Watch closely for a sneak peek at Metropolis’s offices, and a quick comment by editor-in-chief Susan Szenasy.)

But are they being critical enough? Around the same time One Time Studio was coming up with their film, one of design thinking’s biggest advocates, Bruce Nussbaum, declared that the term was a “failed experiment.” And some of his criticisms are not without reason—the biggest being that it has become ossified into a linear process that can be easily sold to CEOs.

On their newly launched Kickstarter page, the film makers seem willing to concede that design thinking might be “just a new packaging of how creative people do things.” And their list of case studies and interviewees is still in formation—the film will be finished with the funds raised through Kickstarter. In a way, just by making a film about design thinking, they might end up proving its relevance – that design isn’t about beautiful objects and quirky people, it is about the ideas that shape them.

Categories: Arts + Culture