Inspiration

15 Must-Watch Movies and Documentaries for Designers

Design inspiration is everywhere, and film is an excellent source of it. So we’ve picked out 15 movies and documentaries all creatives should watch. These films celebrate design in all of its forms and glory. They highlight the ways that design shapes our everyday lives and the power it has to bring about social change. They also provide a close look at the lives and creative processes of visionaries across the industry.

Learn from the innovators who have paved the way before you and the creators that are making waves with their work today. Deepen your art appreciation by learning about the history of typography, or learn about the ever evolving DIY movement.

Without further ado, here are our picks for must-see films:

Documentaries

1. Abstract: The Art of Design 

Abstract: The Art of Design is Netflix’s new documentary series. The series profiles eight of the most innovative thinkers working in design. Watch to learn about the creative processes of the leaders in architecture, interior design, fashion, photography, graphic design, illustration, and automobile design.

“You’re looking for a moment when you’re as close to the soul as possible. That’s what good design is.”

2. Helvetica

Directed by Gary Hustwit as part of the documentary design trilogy including ‘Objectified’ and ‘Urbanized’, Helvetica is a documentary about typography and graphic design. This film explores the history of the Helvetica typeface and they way it’s shaped the world around us.

3. Objectified

Objectified, another film by Gary Hustwit, explores the extent that the design of everyday objects affects us. The film showcases the process of designing these objects and it profiles the graphic designers that create them.

4. Design and Thinking

Design and Thinking is a documentary that examines the relationship between design and business. It shows how creative minds and business professionals can work collaboratively and strategically to create social change.

5. Art & Copy

Art & Copy is a documentary about the advertising industry in the United States. The film tells the story of the creative mavericks behind some of the most famous ad campaigns of all time like “Just Do It” and “I Want My MTV.”

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary directed by renowned street artist, Banksy. The film provides an inside look into street art culture and follows the movers and shakers of the industry, who are breaking the rules to produce brilliant works of art around the world.

7. Beautiful Losers 

Beautiful Losers is about the D.I.Y. movement in the 1990s. During this time artists were drawing inspiration from subcultures like skateboarding, graffiti, punk rock and hip-hop. The film includes a series of interviews with the artistic pioneers of the movement.

8. Maker

Maker is a documentary about the maker movement in the US. The movie highlights the work and stories of the inventors, designers and engineers driving the modern DIY movement. These makers are more than mere hobbyists. They’re using their passion and creativity to impact our culture and economic atmosphere.

9. Lemonade

What do you do when life hands you lemons? You make lemonade, of course! This film shares the story of 16 creative professionals who lost their jobs and were forced to get creative about their own lives. It’s a documentary about following your dreams and making the most out of any situation.

Artist Profiles

10. Cutie and The Boxer

Cutie and The Boxer follows famed boxing painter, Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. It’s a moving and inspirational piece about love and art.

11. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

This film documents the life and work of the unapologetic, courageous Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. The movie follows the artist as he prepares for a museum exhibition.

12. Bill Cunningham New York 

Bill Cunningham is basically synonymous with street style. This film provides a close look into the life of the long time New York Times fashion photographer, whose work put street style on the map. Hear from Bill’s friends and subjects including Anna Wintour, about what makes his work so special.

13. Iris

Iris is a documentary about fashion icon, Iris Apfel. The film illustrates how she influenced the fashion and interior design world with her effervescent spirit and style.

14. Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster is a documentary about legendary movie-poster artist Drew Struzan. It highlights the impact his artwork had on the film industry.

15. Design Is One: The Vignellis

This documentary profiles two of the world’s most influential designers, Lella and Massimo Vignellis. These creative collaborators designed the New York subway singage and American Airlines and Bloomingdales logos.

For more design inspiration check out the 15 books every designer needs to read


Jamie Frankenberg

About the Author Jamie Frankenberg

Jamie is a freelance writer and social worker with a background in public relations. She's currently exploring the world and learning about new cultures, connection, and creativity.