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From Sketch to Screen: 21 Must-Watch Documentaries For Graphic Designers

by Designhill Tweet - in Graphic Design

must-watch documentaries

Last updated on June 24th, 2023

Whenever you’re stuck in a creative rut, you’ll find the internet the quickest resource to draw ideas and inspiration from. You can reignite your passion and uncover fresh ideas by exploring good informational and motivational documentaries on various artistic topics. Particularly for graphic designers, these films can provide invaluable insights and inspiration. This blog post compiles a list of 21 must-watch documentaries providing a glimpse into the design world, from the initial concept to the finished product.

Design is ubiquitous in our lives and woven into the fabric of everything we use from publications and animated films to street signs and consumer products. Its impact is so pervasive that we hardly notice and take it for granted. But in reality, design shapes how we interact with the world.

The key to the brilliant design is to produce work that smoothly fits into the medium or context and pops out just enough to catch our attention. It elevates our perception of the environment to an art form.

But designing is a process full of complexities. From conceiving an idea to delivering it in the form of aesthetically pleasing art requires patience from a graphic designer. Sometimes, the process is too tiresome and discouraging to even experienced professionals.

At such times, a designer can get motivation from knowing how legendary designers worked and how they went through the creative process. There are documentaries on iconic designers available on the web.

You can watch these movies to understand how those designers faced their challenges. It’s crucial to comprehend how the past influences the present. You also learn about past graphic design trends and how they evolved.

Then, some documentaries educate us on colors, typography, images, etc., to address the design basics. Remember that design theory is an essential component of any toolkit, regardless of your profession – graphic designer, 3D animator, interior designer, illustrator, or any other role involving interaction with design concepts.

Here Are 21 Must-Watch Documentaries For Graphic Designers

01. The Principles of Design: Color

Memory, emotion, and meaning can all be evoked by color. Therefore, understanding the rationale and guiding principles underlying color, composition, shape, and balance is always helpful.

This graphic design video is one of a series that examines the principles of graphic design for beginners and covers everything from fine art to contemporary web design.

Basic this specific section clearly explains color theory for graphic design.

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02. The Pixar Story

Pixar transformed the computer animation industry. Expectations for animated films have increased as a result. The animators, designers, and artists who helped shape animation design as we know it today are all profiled in this documentary, along with the studio’s history and roots.

This is the tale of how imaginative character designs and stories that have motivated countless generations, such as Toy Story, Ratatouille, and Turning Red, came to be.

03. The Secret of Great Design

We cease using our imagination when we accept reality as it is. Product designers are frequently required to put themselves in uncomfortable positions that prompt consideration of “the way things are” and potential improvements.

Tony Fadell explores how design can be a catalyst for change and creativity in this TED Talk by using humor and tales. Fadell demonstrates how a designer must observe the tiny faults in life and attempt to correct them.

04. Helvetica

This film is about Helvetica, the typeface that has become ubiquitous worldwide. The movie, which Gary Hustwit directed, honors Helvetica’s origins and its widespread use and appeal. Additionally, the film explores the cultural impact of typography and graphic design.

05. The Artist Series by Hillman Curtis

Hillman Curtis talks with some of the best modern designers and design studios about their respective bodies of work in this video series. The one above concerns renowned “grunge typographer” David Carson, who rose to become one of the decade’s most important graphic artists by defying all design conventions.

Among the other well-known personalities, Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister, Malcolm Gladwell, and the illustrious design studio Pentagram were interviewed.

06. Exit Through The Gift Shop

This documentary, created by renowned graffiti artist Banksy, follows Thierry Guetta, proprietor of a thrift store in Los Angeles, on his unusual transition from street art documentarian to the street artist to well-known pop artist.

Even though the movie focuses on street art, designers will appreciate how it makes fun of the subjective nature of the art world. Along the journey, artwork by other artists, including Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy himself, appears, resulting in a fascinating movie that is as provocative and humorous as Banksy’s most famous pieces.

07. Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

Milton Glaser was one of the iconic designers of the 20th century. He is remembered for his legendary “I Love NY” campaign. This documentary presents Milton’s legendary quotes that designers find inspirational today.

For instance, this quote in the documentary from Milton Glaser that “The purpose of art is to inform and delight” is indeed motivational and gives a clue for understanding designs.

08. Finding Creative Ideas

When you stop thinking and let your creativity flow purely through your feelings and per your prior interactions, experiences, and references, you may occasionally come up with brilliant ideas.

So, how can you generate original, innovative ideas that are inspired? This graphic design documentary gives you a 5-step method for coming up with new ideas is presented in this video.

Creative director and motion designer Tom Crate uses visual references to generate ideas in this video. In addition, there are design hints that you can build on what you’ve previously seen and appreciated to create something original.

09. The Deep Dive: IDEO

IDEO is among the world’s top design firms. Its documentary features the process of creating a product design at the firm. For example, the designer team is shown trying to recreate a humble shopping cart.

Though this is a film from the 90s, it still holds value for designers who wish to learn the nuances of creating a design piece.

10. Eames: The Architect and The Painter

The subject of this documentary is the renowned industrial design team of Charles and Ray Eames. Although the two are well-known for their furniture designs, the movie also includes examples of their artwork, architecture, photography, and film.

This engaging portrayal closely examines these two characters, their marriage, their careers, and their profound impact on American culture.

11. Logorama

The 15-minute animated short in this documentary is about future Los Angeles, where everything and everyone is made of a logo, and a murderous Ronald McDonald goes on the rampage. The French production company H5 was responsible for its 2007 Academy Award-winning performance for best animated short regarding logo design.

12. Art and Copy

This movie examines the American advertising industry and the methods used to create well-known campaigns like ‘Just do it’, ‘Think Different’, and ‘Got Milk’? It conducts interviews with the advertising creatives responsible for those campaigns to learn how they were inspired and how their words were able to touch millions of people.

It is an exciting examination of business, creativity, and psychology.

13. Abstract: The Art of Design

Abstract: The Art of Design by former Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich is about taking the viewers into the creative world of artists. Being one of the best Netflix documentaries, you should watch it to understand the creative process designers and artists go through, and it makes us aware of their challenges.

You will learn about the world of artists such as graphic designer Paula Scher, illustrator Christoph Niemann, automotive designer Ralph Gilles, stage designer Es Devlin, interior designer Ilse Crawford, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, architect Bjarke Ingels, and photographer Platon.

14. PressPausePlay

Press Pause Play is another excellent documentary that graphic designers should watch. This documentary is about digital technology and how to democratize it. Artists and graphic designers will love to watch it for unlimited creative opportunities and new challenges. In addition, it has interviewed many significant artists, including Lena Dunham, Moby, Robyn, Sean Parker, and many more.

15. Bauhaus Spirit

The Bauhaus movement significantly influenced the art world from 1919 to 1933. Vivid colors, wacky designs, and precise geometry characterize the Bauhaus style. One of the most important contributions to culture and design was founded over a century ago.

The documentary by Thomas Tielsch and Niels Bolbrinker examines how the Bauhaus movement altered how we perceive design. It offered a daring, avant-garde design aesthetic against the backdrop of the World Wars.

16. Hierarchy in Design

Hierarchy is about first bringing the viewers’ eye to a particular element rather than a design’s lesser essential elements. So, hierarchy determines how viewers will go through the design. Satori Graphics claims that while dealing with a successful design, attractiveness, suspense, and delivery are three actions one must take.

The design documentary explains “hierarchy”, a key design idea that considers the relative importance of design aspects. By focusing the user’s attention, it makes information easier to understand.

17. Michael Bierut On How To Think Like A Designer

Michael Bierut, a legend in the field of marketing design, has collaborated on projects for clients and brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, The New York Times, numerous museums, and significant urban development initiatives. In this documentary, he demonstrates how various designs, philosophies, and creative elements are used in each unique project.

Bierut’s extraordinary career as a graphic designer is covered in this 40-minute live talk at Design Indaba. He talks about experiences in the field of graphic design, including the logo that changed his life and events that shaped and inspired his perspective on the trade. This is considered one of the best design documentaries that designers must watch.

18. Objectified

This documentary, also directed by Gary Hustwitt, explores the interaction between consumers and the makers of produced goods. It’s a lovely ode to the creative process and a mouthwatering parade of industrial design eye candy that explores how manufactured goods (and their designers) affect our lives.

19. Rams

The renowned graphic designer Dieter Rams, who was at the forefront of consumer product design, once said, “You cannot understand excellent design if you do not understand people.” This documentary by Gary Hustwit examines the contribution and works of Dieter Rams. It refers to his 10 Design Principles as the 10 Design Commandments.

His work has greatly influenced the product design styles and concepts we see today over the past five decades. His influence may be observed in the clean lines of Apple products and common home goods.

20. A Brief History of Graphic Design

This hour-long video reviews graphic designs from the past and the styles and movements that have shaped today’s design world.

Finding out that many graphic designers from the past are self-taught might not come as a surprise. However, some self-taught designers are yet to have the opportunity to delve into the theory and history that underpin the daily design work they conduct.

Understanding their origins and the message their original creators attempted to convey will help you apply styles, tools, and approaches correctly.

21. From Artists to Artists

Anyone can experience creative block. Students at Motion Design School used CGI and 3D animation technology to produce this short animated film. It’s a sweet illustration of how designers interact with their surroundings and find inspiration in the most unlikely places.

These documentaries are what budding and experienced graphic designers should watch for inspiration. These movies educate on different aspects of graphic design and its prospects.

You can find many work opportunities as a graphic designer at Designhill, a leading creative marketplace. The site lets business owners and other design seekers launch their design contests, providing freelance artists/designers opportunities to get jobs of their choice, submit entries, and win prizes.

This site is also where business owners can hire a freelance graphic designer to work one-to-one with a talented designer. You can guide such a talented per your design brief while creating your logo or other visuals.

Alternatively, you can create a logo on your own using a logo maker by Designhill. This DIY tool is your AI-based software that automatically generates multiple logo ideas based on your brief.

Wrapping Up

Graphic designing is a complicated process and, at times, tedious. These documentaries inspire graphic designers to develop unique ideas and work on them for a long time. You also get an insight into the design process that legendary designers followed. There is much to learn from the documentaries covering different aspects of designing a masterpiece.

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