5 Netflix documentaries every designer must watch
7 minute read
They say every day’s a school day. Well, thanks to the number of streaming services that are available today, every day comes with the chance to watch documentaries that can expand your horizons and fuel your creative fires.
Here are a few highlights from Netflix that are bound to get the design juices flowing…
The Toys That Made Us
These shows talk to the executives and the creatives behind the greatest American toys of the 70s and 80s – the toys that both the people making this show and those watching it, grew up on.
What makes the show so fascinating is that it looks at every stage of the design process – from brainstorming to the customer response.
Designers may wish their only challenges were creative ones but, of course, anyone who has worked commercially, for clients who are pulling the financial strings, will know that a lot of the work involves pleasing two masters – the ones buying what you design, and the ones selling it.
This show celebrates the successful creation of famous products, but doesn’t shy away from showing that the creative process is rarely smooth, although it is often surprising.
The Creative Brain
In this documentary, Neuroscientist and creative writer, David Eagleman, explores the very nature of creativity, its process and its origins.
Watching this documentary is like ripping the ring-pull off a fizzing can of inspiration. Creative people talk passionately about their drive, their quest to invent and express.
You’ll hear from creative luminaries like Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Michael Chabon, musicians like Nick Cave and Kelis as well as D.B. Weiss, the co-creator of the TV show, Game of Thrones.
Creativity – as a function of problem solving – is the trait that brought us down from the trees, it led to us taming fire and creating everything from the wheel, to the screen you’re reading this on. All of that started as a spark of creativity in someone’s mind. Never underestimate the value of creative thinking.
Tales of Light
Warning: this show features gratuitous use of landscape. What we have is spectacular landscape photography, featuring the world’s leading landscape photographers venturing forth into the least accessible areas of the world, to take achingly beautiful landscape photographs. Sitting on the sofa watching Netflix never felt more like international travel.
The show was produced as a collaboration between National Geographic and the camera manufacturer, Canon, as a way of showcasing what is important to them both – using technology to turn beautiful locations into spectacular art.
The photographers and filmmakers include Darren Jew, Art Wolfe and Krystle Wright and their journeys – in just the first series of the three that are now available – take them to destinations as exotic and as far afield as the Maasai Mara in Kenya, the seas off the coast of Brazil, the Bahamas, India and Namibia's deserts – home to the legendary Bushmen of the Kalahari.
Indie Game: The Movie
This this highly regarded documentary tells the tale of several video game designers, slaving away at the keyboard and developing their own fiercely-individual video games.
If you’re not particularly interested in game design, there’s still something here for you, because this film speaks to the creative drive that propels all of us into the creative industries.
The film is about game design as self-expression, as confession. Mostly, we are told that artists or writers open a vein and pour their heart and soul onto the canvas or page, but this documentary points out that game devs care just as passionately about their work.
Any creative endeavour is fuelled by passion, and this film captures that energy and throws it up there on the screen. If the games industry still needs to be taken seriously as an art form, films like this make that level-up so much more attainable.
This film goes hand-in-hand with Indie Game: The Movie, but focuses more on the level of sacrifice required to break in to any hotly-contested arena of the media.
These game devs battle with impostor syndrome and crises in self-confidence, while they’re putting in the long hours in order to achieve the goal of working in the industry of their dreams. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t lucrative, but – like any creative endeavour – it starts with a need, a need to create.
These toilers on the virtual coal face of game want, more than anything, to be part of the gaming world, a place that means everything to them. But success can be elusive. They just need to keep working at it until they crack the code!
What’s on your playlist?
If you’ve found a documentary on Netflix that you think other creatives would enjoy or benefit from, that inspired you or taught you something really helpful to your own creative work, come find us on social media and tell the world about it.