Axiom Reviews Abstract: The Art of Design

Abstract: The Art of Design” is one of Netflix’s latest entries in their record-setting push for original content. But unlike binge-worthy series such as Stranger Things or the OA, “Abstract stands-out as a dense inspection into eight arenas of design aesthetic. The result is a love-letter to design-language. Think of it as if illustration, apparel and architecture received the ‘Chef’s Table’ treatment.

The design community has eagerly awaited the release of “Abstract” after it was first unveiled at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This series was tailor-made for us at Axiom, blending branding, illustration and even advanced tech like augmented reality. But even those outside the design industry will find something to love in each installment. And that’s where the show truly finds it’s footing: creating context behind behind the abstraction, and its artist.


Episode 6, directed by Richard Press

As members of a marketing &  branding agency, several Axiomites immediately gravitated to the “Paula Scher: Graphic Designer” episode, in particular. Directed by Richard Press, this episode tackles the world of typography and graphic design, following Scher through her process and storied history.

The open credits, in particular, usher you into the design world by spotlighting decades of Scher’s influential work, ranging from album covers (see Boston’s album above) to posters and logo designs, all stylized in a sequence of saturated colors to reveal decades of influential work.

Illustrated Icon

Scher’s work is captivating. Especially her illustrated typography; it’s framed as her stamp on the design community. This respect for the typeface is a tell-tale sign of her handiwork, and is often the brand-defining attribute in an identity. From The Metropolitan Opera, Citibank and Windows 8 — each mark was shaped by Scher’s illustrated approach.

“Identity means ‘how do I get known? How do I express myself?’ and that’s generally what I’m helping somebody do. It may be three dimensional, it may be a public space, it may involve government, it may involve cultural institutions, it may involve corporations, it may involve editorial publications – it can be anything, really.” – Paula Scher


Episode 1, directed by Morgan Neville

The premiere episode of “Abstract” comes out swinging with “Christoph Niemann: Illustration”. First unveiled as part of the Docuseries Showcase at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, it’s easy to see how this installment grabbed Netflix’s attention. Bright colors and bold illustrations blaze across the screen as a sizzle-reel introduction to the famed illustrator, showing his featured work across The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, American Illustration and The New York Times Magazine.

The focal point of the episode – his creation of an upcoming New Yorker Magazine Cover – is an ideal proof of concept for the series; both introducing a notable artist while showcasing a distinct design philosophy. Niemann’s art imitates life. Or, his life as he sees it. And it shows; his blend of illustration and instinct produces inventive animation. This design philosophy is best illustrated through the episode’s focus on his New Yorker cover, a beautiful illustration that doubles as an Augmented Reality piece.

Augmented Reality in Yellow 

Augmented Reality is responsible for groundbreaking entertainment innovations, from Pokémon Go to the recently released Nintendo Switch. Even Axiom has implemented Augmented Reality in our own work – the technologies’ blend of traditional and digital media offers inventive opportunities.

Early draft of augmented reality animation 

By focusing a smart phone/tablet on the Niemann’s New Yorker Cover, a futuristic Manhattan lifestyle bursts from the page, revealing a multitude of intricate animations, each independent, yet adding to the cohesive creation. Check out the video above to see his animation in full effect.

“Abstract: The Art of Design” premiered as part of the Docuseries Showcase at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

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