Documentaries that will spark your design creativity

Spark Your Creativity with These Inspiring Design Documentaries

Summer’s here and we’re itching for fun and exploration. Why not indulge your team with some good, creative documentaries? We’ve handpicked some of our favorites that are ripe with brilliant characters, innovative insights, and all the brainstorming inspiration you can handle. Plus, all of these documentaries are currently available on your favorite platforms or for rent. Let’s get streaming!

The Creative Brain with Dr. David Eagleman

Where: Netflix

What it’s about: Creativity abounds everywhere—and not just in the arts! Dr. David Eagleman goes into what makes the human brain’s creative juices flow and how it manifests in many different people, from scientists to mathematicians to artists. 

Potential questions for conversation:

  • What’s something new you learned about how the human brain works while being creative?
  • What are some common threads you see across this spectrum of interviewed creatives?
  • Is there any new thought in this documentary that helps you think differently about your current projects?
  • Which person in The Creative Brain taught you the biggest lesson and what was it?



Where: YouTube

What it’s about: Legendary fashion designer, Iris Apfel takes viewers through her life, discusses how she continually finds inspiration, and shows how, even at 99 years old, she’s still in her creative prime. 

Potential questions:

  • In your opinion, what personal qualities or traits make Apfel a creative icon?
  • Out of all Apfel’s possessions or outfits, which one struck you the most? Why?
  • Throughout her life, what is one constant thread you see that runs through all of Apfel’s creative decisions?

Abstract: The Art of Design with Paula Scher

Where: YouTube

What it’s about: The “goddess of graphic design” Paula Scher discusses the storytelling of typography, capturing identity in type, and how she continues to work in and help build the dream team of design at Pentagram. 

Potential questions:

  • What aspects of the Pentagram workspace seem integral to creativity and helping it thrive?
  • Look through the typefaces in Adobe Creative Suite. If you were a typeface, which would you be? Why? How can you take this understanding and use it to inform your current projects?
  • How does Scher’s approach to creativity compare to your own? Is there anything you’d borrow from her or, conversely, don’t feel is helpful to you? Why?


Crip Camp

Where: Netflix

What it’s about: How a handful of teens with disabilities found community with each other in the late 60s and ultimately went on to change, not only the American legislature but also how the world is designed. 

Potential questions:

  • What new things did you learn from this documentary about the ADA—both in the past and in its present state?
  • How does this documentary change your view on Universal Design?
  • How does the concept of Universal Design (its potentials as well as its current lack in our world) inform the kinds of ideas you’re working on daily?
  • Which person in Crip Camp taught you the biggest lesson and what was it?


Black Art: In the Absence of Light

Where: HBOmax

What it’s about: Beginning with the paramount 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” this documentary follows the lineage of Black artists in America all the way through to today’s groundbreaking artists and their current works.

Potential questions:

  • Which particular work in this documentary speaks to you personally? Why? What impression does it leave on you?
  • How does changing which medium you are using change the kind of statement you’re making? Give an example.
  • Which pieces or artists in this documentary teach you how to use your distinct voice more effectively in your own projects? 
  • What else does this documentary encourage you to work on in order to arrive at your creative goals?

We hope these docs will help facilitate your brainstorming sessions as a team (or team of one—we see you, freelancers!). As The Creative Brain points out, creativity can come from anywhere. So an alternative option to streaming is to get outside, wander around, and see what else can spark your creativity. We’ll be here when you need us. ✌️


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