John Pavlus for Fast Company Design Blog:
Calling a director a “designer” is almost a tautology: indeed, anyone making creative choices about what to leave in or leave out, in any medium, is designing. But Fincher’s coolly intelligent eye, laserlike attention to detail, and (in his best work) apparent fascination with storytelling as problem-solving, all set him apart from other filmmakers as a true designer-auteur. He makes films like Jony Ive makes iMacs: They just work — with style to burn.
I’m on record of being an adoring fan of Fincher’s latest, The Social Network, and that’s just an addition to a string of smart filmmaking. I’ve always liked the director/designer analogy, but Mr. Pavlus makes a strong case that no director deserves the analogy more than Fincher.
Fincher’s best films of the last ten years — The Social Network, Zodiac, Panic Room — all function this way, like exquisitely designed machines. That’s not to say they don’t contain compelling characters, too; it’s just that they often seem oppressed by the nanoscopically precise tolerances of the worlds that Fincher builds around them. Which is, of course, the point.
Fincher approaches filmmaking with the eye of a designer—working through constraints, solving problems, and taking a less-is-more philosophy. So the question is, why didn’t he win an Oscar?
Hollywood has made its peace with honoring geeky director-engineers like James Cameron, but somehow, director-designers like Fincher still don’t quite compute during awards season. But maybe Fincher doesn’t care about winning Oscars; maybe at the end of the day, he just cares more about what legendary designer Paul Rand prized above all: just being good.
(Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy)
I read an article a few weeks ago about an interesting element of Shaker design. Inside Shaker homes, a simple wooden strip with evenly spaced pegs spans every wall. We’ve all seen this idea; we often hang our coats on this peg rail system, but the Shakers have built an interesting system upon this framework. Since this is a common element among all the homes, the Shakers could build objects to fit into it. Nothing needs to be nailed into the walls because the only requirement to participate in the framework was a two-inch diameter hole.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few weeks now ever since I read the article almost to the point of obsession. It reminded me of an article I had written a few months ago about the idea that designing for the web is like creating a platform that promotes conversation. As the designer, we start the conversation but the user gets to contribute and add to the platform we create. I started to wonder if this idea wasn’t just limited to web design and if these ideas about frameworks could be applied to anything.
Platforms, Conversations and Design Surprises
I love it when I realize a concept I’ve thought about and written about for a few years can also be applied to something else. One of the principles in my manifesto is “The best work comes from the place between the known and the unknown.” When I wrote that, I was primarily thinking about tools and skill sets, meaning when your designs will be better when you are stretched to learn a new skill or tool because you will be more open to experiment, you will have a great chance of failing and thus, produce different results than if you stick to your usual tools, skills, and practices.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about this concept in regards to the designer and audience relationship. For years, design has been described as a narrative initiated by the designer, usually resulting in a one-way dialog—designer to audience. I believe this method of design is changing with the rise of interactive design and the design process is no longer one continuous narrative but a conversation between designer and audience.