There's a good argument to be made that we owe at least part of society's increased awareness of design to three films by director Gary Hustwit: Helvetica, the 2007 documentary about the eponymous typeface; Objectified, a 2009 examination on industrial design; and 2011's Urbanized, a film about architecture and urban design. Often called The Design Trilogy, these films proved that there was a real audience for documentaries that explored the place of design in the world around us—that design was more than just the secret argot of aesthetes but a language that all of us can understand.
To make his documentaries, Hustwit recorded over a hundred hours of interviews with some of the world's best design minds, yet ultimately, less than three hours of the discussions he recorded were actually used in the films. But these interviews have not been lost. Instead, they have been packaged up into a new book, Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized: The Complete Interviews, which is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter.
The sheer volume of material that Hustwit had left over after finishing his Design Trilogy is a product of the director's highly organic interview style, which tends to result in wide-ranging conversations. "I don't go in with a set list of questions, but just invite designers to talk about what interests them, which really shapes the narrative," Hustwit tells me. "I might record two or three hours worth of interviews with one designer, only to use less than two or three minutes of it in my films." What that means is that even if you have seen all of Hustwit's films, you probably have only seen 3% of the interviews the filmmaker recorded. The other 97% has simply languished on Hustwit's hard drives.
It amounts to a buried trove of treasure: hundreds of hours of insight from some of the most luminous design minds of our era that have just been collecting dust for years. To clear the way for a new film, however, Hustwit has decided to go through these hard drives and properly archive them for the future, making the insights of the designers contained within available to everyone for the first time. Featuring interviews with over 75 designers, including Dieter Rams, Jonathan Ive, Rem Koolhaas and more, the 400-page tome aims to be a high-quality paperback reference book, as well as something of an oral history of the contemporary world of design.
"When I started making Helvetica eight years ago, one of the main reasons I wanted to make the film was because there simply weren't many video interviews of designers talking about what they do, and why," Hustwit tells me. "I've always been disappointed that there isn't some big online repository of design interviews. Even since I've started interviewing people, several designers have passed away: It's important to have a record of these people and their insights."
Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized: The Complete Interviews is, in part, Hustwit's attempt to jumpstart such a repository. "The purpose of the Kickstarter isn't just to publish a book, but to edit, organize, and conserve these video interviews for the future," says Hustwit. "At some point, we hope to find a home for this footage at a design institute or organization, or maybe create an online resource. The Kickstarter aims to catalog and archive this 100 hours of video in a way that can facilitate that."
For backers of the Kickstarter, Hustwit is offering a number of perks. In addition to providing both a physical and digital copy of the book designed by Michael C. Place of Build, backers will receive a custom set of Design Trilogy notebooks provided by Field Notes, limited-edition photographs of designers in the film, and a one-hour documentary featuring the best unreleased footage from all three films.
"We want this book to be the most comprehensive design interview book ever published, an invaluable resource for designers, design educators, or anyone interested in the creative process," says Hustwit. In other words, if you're reading this article, you're Hustwit's intended audience.
You can pre-order Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized: The Complete Interviews now, starting at just $15 for the ebook. The Kickstarter campaign, which requires $55,000 to get off the ground, can be found here.