The Delight of Design

Review of Netflix's "Abstract: The art of design"

I'm sure Christian Courier has given you plenty to think about over the years. But have you ever considered the thing itself? Not just its content, but the very thing you’re holding: the heft of the newsprint, its dimensions, its font styles and sizes? (For the record, the body text is sturdy old Times New Roman, and we deploy Myriad for titles, sidebars and bios). It isn’t just the articles that are the product of much deliberation. Its sensory appeal – its touch, its appearance, even its scent – is what it is because of myriad choices, values, aesthetic judgments and the like.

Indeed, that’s the case for everything in our built environment, from sneakers to skyscrapers. And if you’re like me, it’s so easy to take all that deliberation for granted; that physical world, with all its extravagances of structure and style and beauty so often whips by us on the daily commute.

We ought to be more attentive! In an effort to cultivate that attention, I’d heartily recommend a recent Netflix documentary, called Abstract: The Art of Design, its second season recently released on the streaming platform. Vividly colourful and stylish, highly digestible, and occasionally veering toward hagiography, the series explores the work – and the philosophy behind it – of twelve contemporary designers. Watch Nike designer Tinker Hatfield reflect on the creation of the Air Jordan; engage the world in a slightly neurotic-yet-playful way with illustrator Christopher Niemann; learn from Ian Spalter how Instagram got you hooked; explore a typeface’s asymmetries with Jonathan Hoefler; and get clued in to the sartorial sensibility in all those Spike Lee movies with costume designer Ruth Carter. There’s a story behind everything in this lavish and intricately designed world. A creator, too.


  • Brian Is CC’s Review Editor and a CRC chaplain at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

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