From the things we buy and magazines to animation and street signs, design is everywhere. It’s so ingrained in our everyday lives that we often don’t even notice it.

Brilliant design is about creating work that blends seamlessly into the medium or environment AND jumps out (just enough) to grab our attention. It makes an art out of how we interpret the world around us.

Whether you’re a graphic designer, 3D animator, interior designer, illustrator, or in any field that interacts with design ideas, design theory is a critical asset in any toolbox. It’s essential to gain context into how the future is being shaped by the past.

From Bauhaus to Rams, typography to color theory, these 20 videos and documentaries on graphic design are some excellent sources for inspiring great ideas for everyone interested in the art of design.

1. Bauhaus Spirit

“The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.” ― Wassily Kandinsky

Bold colors, playful shapes, and sharp geometry – that’s what Bauhaus is about. Born over a hundred years ago, the movement stands as one of the most significant contributions to culture and design.

Niels Bolbrinker and Thomas Tielsch’s documentary examines how the Bauhaus movement changed the way we look at design. With the backdrop of the World Wars, it introduced a bold style of work that was ahead of its time. The Bauhaus movement had a tremendous impact on every corner of the art world.


2. Rams

“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people” – Dieter Rams

This documentary by Gary Hustwit takes a close look at the work of the iconic Dieter Rams, who was at the forefront of consumer product design. His work over the last five decades has left a major impact on the styles and ideas of product design we see to this day. His 10 Principles of Good Design might as well be called the 10 commandments of design.

His impact can be seen in the minimal designs of Apple products to everyday household items.


3. A Brief History of Graphic Design

It may not be surprising to learn that many graphic designers are self-taught. Self-taught designers may not have had the chance to dig into the history and theory behind the design work they do every day.

This hour-long video offers an overview of the history of design as well as the styles and movements that shaped the field over time.

“In order to use the styles, the tools, and techniques accurately, you have to understand where they came from and what the person at the time of their initial creation was trying to communicate.”


4. Print the Legend 

Imagine for a moment designing a logo or product and immediately printing it out to interact with it in real time. We’re now at a place where everyone has the ability to realize their designs with 3D printing.

This documentary tells the story of the journey to ubiquitous  3D printing and what it means for the world of design. From prosthetic limbs and controversial weapons to architecture and marketing, the possibilities of 3D printing for design are endless.


5. Michael Bierut on How to Think Like a Designer

As a titan in the industry of marketing design, Michael Bierut has worked with brands and clients like Saks Fifth Avenue, The New York Times, various museums, and major city projects. In this documentary, he shows us how each individual project utilizes different aspects of design theory and imagination.

This forty-minute live lecture by Bierut at Design Indaba covers his exceptional career as a graphic designer. He discusses moments in the field of graphic design that altered and inspired his perspective on the craft – including the logo that changed his life.

Beirut’s message to up-and-coming designers? Listen to your clients – they know the brand better than anyone.


6. Finding Creative ideas 

How does one come up with inspired creative ideas? This video is a 5-step process for coming up with new ideas.

Sometimes great ideas happen when you stop thinking and let the creativity flow naturally through feelings and based on your past encounters, experiences, and references.

This video by creative director and motion designer Tom Crate covers how to come up with ideas using visual references. The video also includes design tips for creating something unique from that which you’ve already experienced and enjoyed.


7. Paula Scher: Graphic Design (Abstract: The Art of Design)

“Typography is painting with words.”

Letters are powerful signs in a world where designers are tasked with conveying complex messages as quickly as possible.

In this Netflix-produced documentary, Paula Scher talks about graphic design and the importance of typography in conveying messages through design. This documentary is great to watch for anyone interested in how typography impacts everyday life in an urban environment.


8. The September Issue 

It’s a trillion-dollar global industry. It’s fashion. And Vogue Magazine is the epitome of the elite side of women’s wear and design.

The September Issue chronicles the daily work of the fashion magazine’s long-standing and fierce editor Anna Wintour, known for her cutthroat approach to all things to do with the Vogue brand.

Vogue has become the voice of fashion, influencing the style of global trendsetters and fashion-lovers. This documentary looks at the influence of Anna Wintour’s decisions on how fashion designs (and a magazine) sells.


9. 125 Unique Renderings from a Single Prompt

You’ll be amazed at how differently each individual artist’s mind interprets a single prompt.

If you’re looking for some creative inspiration in illustration, 3D design and gaming space, this video shows a montage of renderings created by 125 different designers. All of these unique worlds and characters were imagined and produced based on the same exact prompt and template.

Want to try this yourself? Using prompts can be an excellent way to spark new and exciting creative ideas (similar in concept to “yes, and…” idea in improv). It’s a popular practice for writers and artists – so why not designers?


10. The Pixar Story

Pixar changed the computer animation industry. They raised the bar on expectations for animated films.

This documentary tells of the history and origins of the iconic studio and the animators, designers, and artists who paved the way for animation design as we know it today. From Toy Story to Ratatouille to Turning Red, this is story of the creative process behind the innovative character designs and stories have inspired generations.

11. Pressing On: The Letterpress Film  

“Wood, metal, paper, and ink … it awakens something that is there already.”

There’s something special about letterpress designs. The 500-year-old mechanical process is where the modern age of design and typography began (and probably the origins of online proofing).  There are actually thousands of fonts in handset type – and not all of them made it to digitization.

This documentary by Bayonet Media explores the modern printers and graphic designers working to preserve this historic craft.

The full film is available here.


12. The Secret of Great Design

“Our brains encode the everyday things we do into habits, so we can bring up space to learn new things. It’s a process known as habituation.”

The moment we accept things the way they are is when we stop using our imagination. It’s often up to product designers to position themselves uncomfortably in a way that leads to questioning “the way things are” and how they can be better.

This TED Talk by Tony Fadell uses humor and anecdotes to explore how design can be a catapult for change and innovation. Fadell shows us how it’s a designer’s job to not only notice the little things in life but to try to fix them.


13. Hierarchy in Design

Attraction, intrigue, and delivery. According to Satori Graphics, these are the three steps someone goes through when interacting with successful design.

The short video explains “hierarchy”, a fundamental design principle looking at the order of importance of design elements. It makes information easier to understand, directing the attention of the user.


14. 20 Years of 3D Design Advice in 6 Minutes

Kev Binge has worked as a 3D animation designer for years. In this 6-minute video, he breaks down some of the advice he’s found to be helpful.

Through his personal experiences of trial and error, he gives us some of the most important elements of a successful career in 3D design, which includes focusing on aspects of design you’re passionate about. Binge also talks about the importance of developing core skills in art, math, and relevant software.


15. From Artists to Artists

Everyone gets creative block.

This short animated film was created using CGI and 3D animation technology by students at Motion Design School. It’s an adorable depiction of how designers interact with the world around them and draw (pun intended) inspiration from the most random sources. And the animated pup, Spark, is sure to put a smile on your face.

What inspires you to overcome your block?


16. Urbanized

“Urban design is really the language of the city. When you walk down a street, everything you see has been designed.”

Urbanized is a documentary about urban centers and the intriguing design concepts behind the urban city. Why are cities designed the way they are? How do architects, designers, planners, and builders collaborate and integrate their creative ideas in ways that (hopefully) become both functional and beautiful?


17. Sign Painters: The Movie

Signs intersect with every moment of our lives. On street corners, in offices, on billboards along the highway, and plastered to the walls of our favorite shops. They’re digital, technical, and mass-produced.

But they weren’t always. Hand-painted signs are a huge part of American design and advertising history.

This fascinating documentary celebrates the craft of hand-painted signs. It may even inspire you to close Photoshop and pull out the good old art kit!

Watch the full film here.


18. The Principles of Design: Color

Color has the power to trigger a memory, evoke an emotion, and impart meaning.

It’s always useful to understand the logic and principles behind color, composition, shape, and balance.

From fine art to modern web design, this video is part of a series that looks at the fundamentals of graphic design for beginners. This particular segment explains the basics of color theory in graphic design.


19. The Secret to Creating Inspiring Design

In this conversation-style video chat on the Creative Director Studio, Joey and Corey discuss common issues that contribute to designs failing or falling flat.

From issues such as missing “soul” to a lack of a “big idea” and emotional connection with viewers, this video will help designers address their potential shortcomings and explore the ways they can take their design skills to the next level.


20. 2022 Graphic Design Trends

According to the “Yes I’m a Designer” channel’s recent video, these are some of the hottest graphic design trends for the year 2022.

  • A mix of 2D and 3D Art
  • Crypto Art
  • Anti-Design
  • (P)Art Deco
  • Achromatic Design
  • Visual Overload

So far, 2022 has proven to be a truly swinging-twenties take on design with well-thought-out juxtapositions between classic or traditional design structures and modern styles. What will be next?

We hope this list of the best documentaries and videos gave you some inspiration or sparked new creative ideas for your graphic design and all other for of creative projects.

Did we miss any great design documentaries that should be added to the list of must-see docs? If you have one to add, feel free to tweet us @rvwstudio

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