art & design

5 Must-Watch Art and Design Documentaries

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

I love watching documentaries. The most obscure the topic the better in my opinion. Today I am going to share some of my favourite art and design documentaries. I’ve chosen these ones specifically because I think they can be enjoyed by everyone. Not just designers or creative types.

5 Must-Watch Art and Design Documentaries

Teaching To See (2012)

This is a short documentary I have mentioned on the blog before as it is one of my particular favourites. Teaching To See is about graphic design and the teachings of Inge Druckrey. The film covers the principles of seeing, analysing and executing. Which forms the basis of graphic design. Its about learning how to visualise and the importance of drawing. This is a very calm documentary which will quickly have you hooked. You don’t need to be an artist to appreciate seeing detail in everyday things.

Abstract: The Art of Design (2017)

This is a documentary series available on Netflix which showcases designers from a variety of disciplines. It features great designers such as Paula Scher which explores how her typography has shaped the face of New York. As well as more obscure designers, such as Tinker Hatfield, who is a shoe designer for Nike and created Nike’s most famous shoe, the self-lacing version from Back to the Future. Though some episodes are weaker than others Abstract does a great job of showing how designers shape the world we live in today.

Helvetica (2007)

This is a independent film about typography and graphic design. Centering on the typeface which gave the documentary its name. Created to celebrate Helvetica’s 50th birthday, the documentary examines visual culture and how a typeface is used. Both aesthetically and culturally to give character to urban environments. The film then goes on to interview a number of acclaimed designers about their work, and their reasonings behind design choices related to the font.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

This is a feature length documentary about Ai Weiwei directed by Alison Klayman. Ai WeiWei is a Chinese artist and activist, the film chronicles his work as he prepares for a series of exhibitions while getting into a number of altercations with the Chinese government.

Sky Ladder (2016)

Sky Ladder documents the work and life of Cai Guo-Qiang. Who uses gunpowder as a homage to his ancestors and as an acknowledgement of humanity’s fleeting nature. By creating ambitious pieces on an unimaginable scale Cai’s work transcends physical permanence. The film tracks his rise to fame and why he engineers art which stretches further than the eye can see.


And there we have it. Some of my favourite design documentaries. If you’re going to just pick one out of this list to watch I highly recommend Teaching To See. The principles featured in that documentary make the basis from which all of graphic design is based on. I highly recommend watching if you’re a design student but if you’re not its still enjoyable anyway.

One Comment

  • Sarah

    I watched Sky Ladder a while back and found it fascinating… Thanks for sharing your favourites, I shall definitely take a look at those.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.