Article (print & digital) for The Korea Times

INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER GARY HUSTWIT

"Why wasn't there a documentary where people talk about fonts?" With this question in mind, Hustwit directed "Helvetica," a film on the beloved typeface of the same name that Apple has even used for its products including the 1st generation iPhone.

Take a look at your smartphone. How did all the little pieces come together so that we can text, take pictures and surf the web? Who actually assembled it? These are some of the questions that filmmaker and photographer Gary Hustwit urges us to think about when dealing with everyday objects. 

Hustwit recently visited South Korea for the screening of his Design Trilogy "Helvetica," "Objectified" and "Urbanized" at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza as part of DDP's Open Market Festival, held Oct. 1 to Oct. 5. 

The Korea Times sat down with Gary Hustwit for an exclusive interview, where he revealed stories about his life and work, all interweaving into a movie of its own. 

Hustwit became involved in film and design in a very circuitous way. He did not finish college, but was kicked out twice. While helping his friends who were in bands with record releases and book tours, he decided to release a book of his own, "Releasing an Independent Record." During the process of making his book, he taught himself the art and design of book covers and page layouts. 

With a curiosity for design and film, he started the project for "Helvetica." He remarked, "I was a fan of graphic design and typography. I really wanted to watch a film about them, but it didn't exist at that point. Why wasn't there a documentary where people talk about fonts? Or the history of typography? And how digital media is changing graphic design?" He began e-mailing a couple of designers, asking if they wanted to participate in the film. The project took off and he ended up interviewing over 75 designers to produce arguably the first film ever about typography.

The second part of the trilogy "Objectified" examines our complex relationship with manufactured objects. It takes a look at the production process, the people who designed and created the products and how these products affect our lives. He was asking questions like where was this object made? Who made it? Were they paid a living wage? What am I going to do with it? How long am I going to use it? Again, Hustwit's curiosity and thirst to see films addressing these questions drove him. 

He explained, "By buying these things we're enabling them to be made. We're enabling the people that make them to continue to do what they're doing. That's a tremendous amount of power in the hands of the consumer, to determine what objects and what designs keep getting made." He shared that his favorite object was a manual film camera from the 70s, a utilitarian object that worked just as well now as it did several decades ago.

The last film of the trilogy "Urbanized," a film about the design of cities, was achieved through crowdsourcing, using social media to summon participation from the public. If he needed one skyline shot of Sydney but lacked the money to fly all the way, he would post on his Twitter asking for help. Many responded and sent shots. In a collaborative effort, the last of his trilogy was created. 

Gary Hustwit did not study film or design. He had an appetite to tackle his curiosities that no one else seemed to be dealing with. Without revealing too much, Hustwit commented that he is currently working on a different project, completely unrelated to design. But one thing remains certain: Hustwit's curiosity will take us to places and ideas that we would have never imagined to carry such depths.