Abstract: the Art of Design
Season OneLaunching the preeminent design documentary
The series Abstract: The Art of Design, created by GDP’s co-founder Scott Dadich, premiered on Netflix in 2017. In its Emmy-nominated first season, the series demystified the creative process of formative designers across eight different (and sometimes surprising) fields. It also established a provocative premise that has carried over to the second season: that design is a way of thinking that can be learned by anyone and applied to nearly any field.
At the most fundamental level, design is a series of decisions aimed at an intended outcome: How do you create a high-performance sneaker for the greatest basketball player in the world and simultaneously make an everyday fashion accessory worn by millions of regular people across the globe? How do you build a man-made ski mountain on top of the world’s largest clean energy power plant in the middle of Copenhagen? By design.
Abstract demonstrated that great design is all around us, even if we don’t notice it. The best designers often strive to be invisible, prizing simplicity and prioritizing function; through design thinking, their work has shaped and continues to shape our world.
To tell these stories, Scott teamed with Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and seasoned producer Dave “DOC” O'Connor (Whitey: The United States v. James J. Bulger, National Geographic's Mars, and the Emmy-nominated ESPN 30 for 30 film Doc & Darryl) . Each episode serves as an individual narrative, imbued with the characteristics and quirks of the subjects themselves, who were drawn from across the globe. They included illustrator Christoph Niemann, Nike design virtuoso Tinker Hatfield, stage designer Es Devlin, architect Bjarke Ingels, graphic designer Paula Scher, automotive designer Ralph Gilles, interior designer Ilse Crawford, and photographer Platon.
The look of each episode was carefully calibrated to reflect the design sensibilities of the designer being featured.
The title sequence of each episode offered a breathtaking distillation of a designer’s life and work.
The Emmy-nominated use of motion design brought the work of each artist to life and created an immersive experience for the audience. Each frame illustrated the work in its truest form—the result of a careful collaboration between the team and the designer. The New York Times called Abstract: “Richly informative, and moreover, visually lush; the camera finds snatches of beauty in every field, from photography to interior design and everything in between.”
At its best, design helps us remember that we are agents in this life—we have the ability to make the world better if we are thoughtful about what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. In its debut season, Abstract inspired us to be more thoughtful in our own lives, and to look at the world differently: to both appreciate design thinking and to incorporate it more. In these somewhat difficult, often cynical times, Abstract is a call to arms to forge a better tomorrow. The future is in our hands. As Ilse Crawford says in the series, “Design is not just a visual thing. It’s a thought process. It’s a skill. Ultimately, design is a tool to enhance our humanity.”