Over the years Joie and I have watched all kinds of documentaries together. There are all kinds of great documentaries out there that I’d put on a list of favorites. But as time went on, a different list started to form in my head of the movies that most influenced the way I think about my work, design, and creativity.

I’ve googled “creative documentaries” and things like that lots of times in the past with negligible results compared to coming across them organically. The oldest documentary on this list is about 10 years old now, whereas the newest was just released last year.

1. Press Pause Play

Press Pause Play explores themes of independent makers and industry, the nature of modern sampling, and rising above “the grey goo”.

2. Helvetica

Helvetica, one of two documentaries on this list made by Gary Hustwit, is a master work on the ubiquity of the typeface. My favorite part is around when they discuss how the negative space and counters of Aksidenz Grotesque hold the forms together.

3. Exit Through the Giftshop

Exit Through the Giftshop has so much heart and intellect, I love the way they edited this whole thing. It investigates themes ownership, commercialism, subversion, and the bluechip art market.

4. Lego Brickumentary

A playful piece that explores the history of LEGO and the nature of systematic creativity. I love it, my kids love it, we both enjoy watching it together.

5. Musicbed’s Make

I’ve been tracking the trajectory of Musicbed and Filmsupply since their inception and I was geeking out when this documentary was first released. It’s a value based piece that gets to the heart of why we do what we do.

6. How to Grow a Band

As an astronomical Punch Brothers fan, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this or had it playing in the background while I work. It documents the rise and fall of Nickel Creek, Thile’s foundation of his new group, and what’s most important to the band to maintain an innovative dynamic.

7. Maker

Maker follows specific makers and maker-spaces as a means to understand the human propensity to hack. Hack tech, hack industry, hack life.

8. Design & Thinking

Design Thinking is a great introduction to what makes this approach unique in the western problem solving landscape.

9. Rams

Rams follows the work and life philosophy of iconic Braun designer Dieter Rams. Summed up in his motto “Less but Better” the documentary highlights Rams use of design as a means of improving the world and his distress at its abduction for marketing, commercialism, and materialism.

10. Art & Craft

A genius piece following the work of Mark Landis, a savant art forger who donates his forgeries to art museums.

11. Design is One

I have to stop here and say thank you to all my friends who put up with my Vignelli obsessions. This list wouldn’t be complete without the documentary exploring their design partnership, which was released just 2 years before Massimo passed.

12. The Pixar Story

The Pixar Story is essentially the documentary version of Ed Catmull’s “Creativity Inc. It follows the basic ideas and use of technology by Disney, their decline in the 1990’s, and resulting fertile ground of Pixar’s success.

Do you think there should be a documentary on this list you don’t see? Send me a note and let me know what you would add.