Thursday, January 19, 2017

Film Review: Design Disruptors (2017)


Early on in Matt D’Avelia’s Design Disruptors, someone remarks that ‘design’ is “solving old world problems with new world technologies.” – and with that, the tone is set for the next hour.  An assembly of some of the more progressive and influential design minds from some of the most disruptive companies – Faceboook, Twitter, Uber, Dropbox, Mailchimp, Evernote, Lyft – discussing the importance of good user experience and game-changing products and services.  It is a distinctly 21st century documentary, from its aesthetics to its language and rhetoric, and is a fascinating insight into the minds and processes of these mega companies that have had such an impact on our daily lives.

The contributors don’t just believe in technology but in a technologic utopia.  Lets hope for the sake of all of us that the growing anger and isolationism embodied by Trump and his disturbingly retrograde cronies don’t impact the optimism and inclusivity flowing out of Silicon Valley since the turn of the century.


However, it must be noted that there is an acute irony at the centre of Design Disruptors – a kind of theory vs. practice paradox: each of the designers spend the majority of the narrative stressing that functionality and usability are more important than textbox shadows and graphics.  Efficiency and use over beauty.  Practicality over aesthetics.  Yet they use phrases such as “Design is a bridge connecting complexity with meaning” and “Designers propose alternate futures and the users then get to chose”.  Incredibly poetic for people so preoccupied with logic… 

It is these lyrical flourishes that make the film so watchable and enthralling.  If the designers weren’t so intelligent and charismatic then it might be hard to spend 90 minutes listening to them talk about their own work.  It is their empathetic perspectives – trying to envision how others might use their products as opposed to how they want their projects to move forward – that has ensured their success.  An example from Facebook:  certain teams have ‘2g Tuesdays’ in order to make their devices act like how they might in rural India as opposed to hyper-connected north California.


I watched Design Disruptors at a screening at chic Bournemouth digital agency Greenwood Campbell – An exhibition method in keeping with the ethos of the film (and very enjoyable).  If you can catch this film in public then it is guaranteed to spark debate as it summaries and reflects our current collective digital landscape and raises a number of interesting paths for our future…until the next disruption.

1 comment:

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