Netflix is primed to launch a new original documentary series next month fit for all architecture and design enthusiasts. “Abstract: The Art of Design” will premiere on Feb. 10 and spotlight how design influences everyday life. The show, produced by Editor-in-Chief of WIRED Scott Dadich, follows the creative genius of eight innovators in design-related fields. One of those innovators is none other than Danish architect and founder of BIG, Bjarke Ingels.
Nothing makes more sense than to see Ingels atop the list of architects who would be perfect for the silver screen. He’s a man who’s often referred to as a rock star of architecture, whose TED Talks alone have received over two million views and whose category-defying projects and vivacious personality have been covered by the New York Times, Vogue and Rolling Stone.
“Abstract: The Art of Design” dives into the lives of Ingels and a stellar group of creatives that includes a graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, Nike shoe designer, automobile designer, interior designer and a set designer. The trailer immediately pulls viewers into the designers’ individual worlds with tantalizing flashes of the objects, photographs and buildings created by them.
The sound of big drum kits signals innovation and power. At one point, we see Ingels diving midair like Superman with the instantly iconic VIA 57 West in the background. Other scenes show the designers sketching, test-driving and setting up their subjects — details of the rigorous process it takes to create their next masterpiece.
The trailer is amplified by an emotional score, dramatic sound-bites and bold text displayed between images that proclaims: THEIR WORK IS OUR WORLD. It’s a tearjerker for anyone that is emotionally affected by great design and creativity. The movie magic is real.
While it’s praiseworthy that a powerhouse media company like Netflix is encouraging viewers to think more deeply about design in their world, this series seems to showcase an overly romantic view of what it means to be an actual designer.
Architecture, specifically, is a hard profession that feeds off of extremely delayed gratification. Projects are contingent upon a multitude of factors and some designs never see the light of day. However, films such as this, which explicitly investigate the influence of notably successful professionals, are naturally going to be optimistic. In this case, Ingels is perfect for the part. Some might say his arguable “starchitect” status is the prime reason he was chosen, but it is undeniable that he is a great communicator of his craft, and people pay attention to him because of it.
Ingels is a natural-born storyteller. His inconceivable projects speak a great deal of his enthusiasm, not only for design, but for life, and he has achieved more than most architects by the age of 42. This makes him great documentary material. But it is important to emphasize that Ingels is not the “everyman” of architects. Most of the projects being built around the world are not as glamorous or widely recognized as those of his firm, BIG.
If the goal of this series is to inspire and idealize the creative process of these designers, then it seems sure to succeed. People crave beauty, want to create impactful work themselves and like to be shown that it’s possible. To truly reflect these creative professions, though, Netflix must document both the madness and the appeal of working as a designer in these fields.
Hopefully, “Abstract: The Art of Design” will not only awaken viewers to the potential and power of design, but also disclose the challenging reality of making your physical dreams come true as a designer today.