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.