The Blog

Harry Potter Design Magic - A Conversation With Harry Potter Designer Team MinaLima

Fresh from showing their graphic arts collections at London's GraphicJunction, talented Harry Potter designer team MinaLima pause to reflect on their association with the phenomenally successful films, the challenges facing today's graphic designer and collective memory.

Fresh from showing their graphic arts collections at London's GraphicJunction, talented Harry Potter designer team MinaLima pause to reflect on their association with the phenomenally successful films, the challenges facing today's graphic designer and collective memory.

Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima actually met on the set of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where they 'immediately forged an alliance of creativity and humour'.

The talented couple have spent ten years creating elements of the graphic design for the Harry Potter films including the Marauder's Map, The Daily Prophet and every other graphic prop in the film series but their creativity extends beyond these magical tales; they recently had a much talked about show at the Conningsby gallery, accepted an invitation to design a limited edition Oyster cardholder to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Underground and through Printorium continue to exhibit and sell original work.

Q Your impressive work is a testimony to great chemistry between you and Eduardo, how was the creative collaboration formed?

A I started working on the first Harry Potter film as a graphic designer and on the second film Eduardo joined the department kind of by serendipity. We met through a mutual friend: Eduardo is Brazilian and wanted to come and live in London. He got in touch with the only tenuous contact he!

EL: In fact, I was recommended: "You should call Mira: she's doing graphics for a movie about a young wizard or something". It all started there!

Q I am personally intrigued by lasting creative collaborations such as the Coen brothers and wonder what your take on the successful partnership is

A At the core of any good relationship is a sharing of the same values, even (and especially) those which are not necessarily directly related to the business. Though we have some contradictory tastes in music, cuisine etc we share the same sense of humour (essential!), opinions about family and relationships, and of course a vision for where our work will go. Creatively we each have our own tendencies which somehow complement rather than contradict one another. We are very aware and grateful that the sum of our efforts is much greater than the individual parts. This keeps the creative alliance extremely strong. We were once told that a successful business is the product of a robust working relationship, more than of the product itself!

Q From a web site to stationary design, is the Internet age designer under greater pressure to fit the client's brand? do you need to continuously consider where a given product design sits in the greater scheme of the company's 'look'?

A Though we are not a branding studio, much of our work designing graphic props for films is about attributing an identity to a particular character or scene or set to give it credibility. This is about helping tell the story through visual prompts - not unlike how companies need to sell themselves by presenting their past and future through branding. So yes, it makes for a much more interesting offering when a brand has an compelling story to tell, over and above a single logo design.

Q Can you tell us about how the association with Harry Potter has evolved over the years?

A The initial hiring to work on the first film for four months turned into eight films over ten years! Since we finished in 2010, Harry has been very present in our studio - from designing merchandise and books to the entire street graphics for the new extension at the theme park in Orlando.

Q Tarantino speaks of listening to music when he writes and Scorsese watched Kazan classics for inspiration, where do you draw yours from?

A Anyone with a 'visual' head is constantly absorbing pictorial stimuli, whether consciously or unconsciously when out and about. This all gets stored away in your imagination (usually in a mess!) and becomes a personal archive to dip into for inspiration. And when that doesn't work we turn to our beloved library of reference books and vintage ephemera.

Q Do you find the balance between what the client/project calls for and your own vision challenging?

A With film work our duty is absolutely to the script, be it to help shape a particular character or describe a particular historical period visually. The script is our client! Our 'vision' needs to be the result of the project's demands rather than the other way around.

Q You recently had a show at The Conningsby gallery, why it important for you to share your work with others?

A So much work was created for the sets which never actually made it into the films, so creating the Printorium collection was an accessible way to share this body of work with both Harry Potter fans and design enthusiasts. Seeing them up close and for real is important to appreciate the design detail and hand foiled finishes we apply to the prints.

Q The recent V&A show Ignition: Memory Palace, made me wonder about our collective memory and the assumption that digital storage automatically does away with physical/hard copy preservation. As our creative work is preserved digitally, do we have a duty to also keep the physical/hard copies? as a book is available is digital format, should we keep the printed copies? what is your take on that?

A Absolutely! Particularly with reference and art books, where the visual and tangible qualities of a book cannot be matched in digital format.

The opportunities offered by digital technology are phenomenal, and at MinaLima we have taken advantage of them with the way we use computers in our work. But we always try to marry this with hand-work and by including 'analogue' imagery in our designs. Apparently we are "digital artisans" !

Q What would you tell any fresh graduate/creative hopeful wishing to get into your field?

A Be observant, work hard, and trust your imagination. Grasp challenges, and try to always add a little more than you thought possible.

Buy yourself one new reference book every month, on ANY subject which captures your imagination! Oh, and always always stay light-hearted!

Q What is next for you?

A The Printorium is not only about Harry Potter graphics. We are creating our own original work, also available as limited edition prints. There are new collections of fictional book jackets, nursery rhymes and plans for map-related designs!

Two Film productions and a book design are on our job sheets for the rest of this year.