12 Documentaries for Makers, Designers, and Creatives

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.

Macbeth Promo Shoot

It’s been so thrilling to participate with Attic Theatre in this year’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s, “Macbeth”. Let’s just say… Crime doesn’t pay. The story of a fallen war hero who gives in to his unsavory ambitions and sears his conscience with an initial act of treason results in a slippery slope of cover ups that eventually seal his fate at the hands of those whom he’s betrayed. It’s been a challenge to make this theme of restitution palatable for a modern audience, but ultimately has been very rewarding. I think our intention to make this story personal and relatable has shown through each portion of the production, including these promo shots!
The first series here have already been edited a little bit. In addition to the basics, I also accentuated the lighting to make it more dramatic and appear to be coming from one side more than the other.


The next series is the results of dozens of glass and paper textures as well as some significant burning and dodging to achieve a very antique look.


We hope to see you there at one of the performances:


South Harbour Clubhouse
Indianapolis, IN

March 4th, 5th, at 7pm and 6th at 2pm and 7pm

Counters in Typography

In the Helvetica Documentary by Gary Hustwit, there is this section around the 20 minute mark where they discuss what made Helvetica so particular and recognizable.

“When you talk about the design of The Hass Neue Grotesk, or Helvetica, what its all about is the interrelationship of the negative shape, the figure ground relationship, the shapes between characters and within characters with the black, if you like, with the inked surface. And the Swiss pay more attention to the background so that the counters and the space between characters just hold the letters.
I mean you can’t imagine anything moving it is so firm. It’s not a letter that’s bent to shape, its a letter that lives in a powerful matrix of surrounding space. Oh, its brilliant when its done well.”
– Mike Parker, Director of Typographic Development for Linotype 1961-1981.

Ever since hearing this a few years ago I’ve never paid closer attention to the negative space of letter forms, in particular, the negative space of counters.

At this point it may be helpful to introduce a little bit of Letter Anatomy. There is a great, concise resource on Letter Anatomy in Ellen Lupton’s book “Thinking with Type”:

Typography Anatomy

Any letter that leaves negative space completely enclosed by the letterform has a counter. Counters are what I focused on for this project. These letters would include Aa, Bb, Dd, g, Oo, Pp, Qq, R, and a few numbers like 4, 6, 8, 9, and 0. The Capital P in the example below doesn’t have a complete counter, but that’s only unique to Garamond and a few others, they usually do have counters.


I thought Garamond was a great choice for playing with counters because it follows the same principle of negative space directing the shape of the letter forms, but its counters are much more organic and recognizable when separated from their positive counterparts. Let me show you what I mean:

The word “Bag” is great illustration for this idea. You can almost as easily read the form of the counters as you can the letters themselves because they are so familiar. I found quickly that some words are more recognizable in special combinations of uppercase and lowercase than always starting with caps and in some cases you have no alternative, like having only a lowercase g or uppercase R to work with.
One of my absolute favorites is the way that the counters in the word “age” all appear together:

There are some words that don’t handle this quite so well, however. Words like “bead” and “badge” might be more difficult for non-graphic artists to recognize:

In an attempt to compensate for this, I think I’ve discovered that sometimes pairing regular and italic versions of the counters can give a little more information to help distinguish where the letter forms would be:

I wanted to get a better feeling for the way the letter forms, outline shapes, and counter shapes interacted to aid our interpretation so I made regular and italic versions of a few more words as well as paired the regular and italic versions of each.










Some work better than others and in some instances I would choose to pair italic counters with regular outlines and on and on with many more possibilities. This practice has given me much more confidence to appropriately alter letter forms and their negative space when working on logos and special layouts. I haven’t used R, Qq, Pp, or any numbers yet, but its I think their eventual addition will provide much more flexibility in addition to adding some new words.
Its a little too crazy to really have any idea of what’s going on, butjust for fun, here are all the words I’ve worked with so far:


I’m excited to put this to more practical use and would love to hear unique ideas you may have.

Emily – Portraits

This is my sister Emily. She likes to act, dance, and be fun. She works at the library. Today is her 18th birthday. We got a opportunity to shoot in the Palladium Theater in Anderson, IN. I’ll show you some more shots we got from that trip in a couple posts, I’m sure. MJ and I tag teamed with Emily and a few others over the last few weekends, so you’ll see more of the dance and librarian side of Emily with his work.

Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-3

Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-8



Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-67

Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-115



Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-128

Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-130

Emily - Senior - 2015 - reduced-138

Hight Family – Portraits

When you have two best friends who both need family photos and are both photographers, this is what you do. You both swap family portraits in an hour on your day off. I’m so happy with the shots MJ was able to get with my clan and I was so glad to capture this afternoon with his. They’re known as the “little” Hight Family.

Hight Family Photoshoot Fall 2015-51

Hight Family Photoshoot Fall 2015-60



Hight Family Photoshoot Fall 2015-20

Hight Family Photoshoot Fall 2015-68

Hight Family Photoshoot Fall 2015-69

Filmonaut XXI – Ricohflex on Ilford Delta 400

It seems as though I’m always singing the same tune when it comes to my shooting film. I’m finally almost caught up with last summer! Once I’ve got all my processed rolls posted up to this point I’ll share some fun work going on with a nifty Zenza Bronica ETRS I traded a while back. Also, stay posted for some gorgeous Portra I scanned in with Caleb not too long ago.

This covers a not-so-recent snow boarding trip, a visit from a friend, and barista throwdown from Louisville.

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image