ID Essentials – Abstract: Season 2
In a new series of blog regulars, each month one of the Idealogy team will share something that has either inspired them, lit a fire under their imagination or just made them want something really badly! This month it’s the turn of Content Director, Sean Atkins, to share one of his ID Essentials.
Here’s what I love. I love making things, conjuring up ideas, trying to bring those ideas to life and paying forensic attention to details that seem inconsequential to others. It’s the reason I work at Idealogy and why I surround myself with the people I do. So TV shows that delve into the lives of creatives from other industries taking a variety of creative routes to try and acheive exactly the same thing, are right up my street.
To me, this sort of telly is comfort food that sparks ideas. Like a shepherd’s pie on a stormy night that whispers in your ear that elusive tagline to a seasonal retail campaign that’s been eluding you for days. Just me? Fine. But stick with me here.
There’s no better example of this creative process-porn than the wonderful Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art Of Design – series 2 of which has just landed on the streaming giant. The Art of Design takes you beyond blueprints into the art, science, and philosophy of design. Going deep inside the minds of the world’s greatest designers, each episode explores a different world ranging from architecture, costume and typefaces to toys and digital production.
So far, so generically gushing, right? So let’s look at an example episode to try and bring this to life. Episode five is about Digital Product Design and follows Ian Spalter (of Instagram and Nike fame) across numerous projects. Ian isn’t like ordinary folk. He’s very deliberate in everything he does and from the very beginning when explaining that removing complexity doesn’t always improve an experience, but that sometimes you need to ADD options that just make sense, I was hooked: “I have a button on my toaster that says ‘A bit more’ because that’s part of the user experience of making toast.” Clearly he’s a madman, but he’s my kind of madman.
From here the episode soars through a fascinating study of why Instagram is close to perfect, but never actually perfect; meets the man who invented infinite scroll and immediately had ‘infinite scroll remorse’ because it’s such an addictive time-sponge; looks at the iterative process of standup comics and why digital designers should think the same way, and reveals the psychological benefit of downplaying follower counts in social app design.
I know, for some of you Abstract will invoke a classic “listen, I’m not interested in how the sausages are made, I just want to eat some sausages” reaction, but for those that solve creative and marketing problems for a living, this is absorbing and inspiring stuff. It’s just so reassuring to see that however much you think YOU sweat the small stuff to get it right, there’s always someone else REALLY sweating the small stuff.
And then there’s the altogether more meta reason to luxuriate in Abstract. This is one of the most visually stunning shows anywhere on TV right now. And because the documentary style and storytelling approach is so impeccably crafted and visually innovative, you can’t help but wonder if former Wired man Scott Dadich, the creative brain behind the series, will get an episode of his own showcasing creativity in documentary-making one day. Until then…
Abstract Season 2 is on Netflix right now.
Watch the trailer below.