Abstract title card

Peering into lives of the visionary designers who shape our world

New Netflix series, Abstract: The Art of Design, shows how designers work

Buildings aren’t constructed from a repository of Lego-like pieces. Fonts aren’t simply born. And anybody with a shred of interest in photography would know that an amazing shot doesn’t just appear in the viewfinder. It’s no accident that the things around us look and feel the way they do.

Humans, of course, are responsible for designing our experiences with the unnatural world, and it’s bloody hard work. Yet we don’t usually think about the very forms of the things we interact with and are exposed to every day – the whys and the hows.

The new original Netflix series, Abstract: The Art of Design, aims to help people not only see the built, designed world, but understand how it gets that way.

Speaking to Esquire, creator Scott Dadich says: “A lot of people have this notion that designers are some person sitting in a black turtleneck someplace where there’s this great bolt of inspiration that comes down. But it’s actually just a lot of work: putting one foot in front of the other every single day, and doing the work.”

The show deals as much with the designer as the designed, in a format similar to Netflix’s Chef’s Table. It delves into the lives and processes of creators, their workspaces, what motivates them, what excites them, and how they push through roadblocks to bring an idea to life.

Illustrator Christoph Neimann features in the first episode of Abstract: The Art of Design
Illustrator Christoph Neimann features in the first episode of Abstract: The Art of Design

Dadich and his team invited eight designers to take part in the series. Crucially, each individual represents a different industry, which is wonderful as it puts a spotlight on roles that don’t immediately come to mind when someone considers the role of a “designer”. The roster for the first season includes: Christoph Niemann (illustrator), Tinker Hatfield (footwear designer for Nike), Es Devlin (stage designer), Bjarke Ingels (architect), Ralph Gilles (automobile designer for Fiat Chrysler), Paula Scher (graphic designer), Platon (photographer), and Ilse Crawford (interior designer).

Dadich also hopes that the series will cut through the usual style of design documentaries. “[They’re] restrained, polished, pretty—so many of them look like a moving version of a coffee table book,” he tells Wired. “You’ve got softly lit interviews, esoteric conversations, and subtle tracking shots of wide landscapes beneath unobtrusive music. Most of it is clean, minimal, and boring as hell. We’re not doing that.”

Abstract: The Art of Design is streaming now. Check out the trailer below.