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5 Documentaries Every Designer and Art Director Should See

On-screen inspiration and ideas from across the spectrum of design and advertising.

1. Helvetica

If you know the difference between a typeface and a font, then you’ll love this documentary about the world’s most inescapable typeface: Helvetica. Directed by Gary Hustwit, the film celebrates Helvetica’s history, the reasons for its pervasiveness, and universal appeal. The film also examines how typography and graphic design affect our culture. The full film is available to watch on Netflix or rent from the film’s website.


2. Art & Copy

This film captures the spirit of the U.S. ad industry from the “Mad Men” days until now, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at iconic campaigns like “Just do it,” “Think different,” and “Got Milk?” It interviews the advertising creatives behind those campaigns, finding out where they got their inspiration and how they managed to move millions with their messages. It’s a fascinating study of commerce, art, and human psychology and it’s available on Netflix and Vimeo


3. The Artist Series by Hillman Curtis

In this video series, Hillman Curtis interviews a collection of the top designers and design firms of our time about their work. The one above is about famous “grunge typographer” David Carson, who became one of the most influential graphic designers of 1990’s by breaking all the rules of design. Other famous names interviewed are Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister, Malcolm Gladwell, Milton Glaser, and the legendary design firm Pentagram. The whole series is free to watch on Curtis’ website.


4. The Deep Dive: IDEO

A feature by ABC Nightline, this film is about the product design process of IDEO, one of the world’s top design firms. In this series, IDEO’s team attempts to re-design the humble shopping cart. This film is from the 90’s but it’s a must-watch as it’s rare to find such an all-access glimpse into the design process of one of the top design firms in the world. Watch the rest of the series here.


5. Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

This amazing gem is about one of the most legendary designers of the 20th century: Milton Glaser – best known for designing that iconic “I Love NY” campaign. The film has a lot of inspirational quotes for designers, for example: “The purpose of art is to inform and delight.” I guarantee you that this film will validate every reason you decided to become a graphic designer. It’s also on Netflix.




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