Interview with London-based MinaLima, Specialising in Graphic Design for Film

London-based design studio MinaLima specialise in graphic design for film, best known for establishing the visual graphic style for the magical Harry Potter film saga. MinaLima, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, produced all the graphic props for The Imitation Game ­Bafta and Oscar-nominated for its production design. We speak to the pair about their collaboration over the years and their numerous design projects.

ASFF: How would you compare working on the factual The Imitation Game with fantasy Harry Potter?
MinaLima:
Factual films are all about the research and the production of the props. They need to be as authentic as possible. On The Imitation Game we had to make sure all the graphics were historically accurate to the period of World War II as any mistake would be quickly spotted as it is so well documented. That is the challenge and the fun when we are doing a period/factual film. Having said that, sometimes you need to twist reality to make it more cinematographic and to tell a narrative instantly. On the contrary, when working on a fantasy film like Harry Potter the challenge is to create a whole world that doesn’t exist but at the same time is both believable and whimsical. Story telling is the common link in any film.

ASFF: What was the most challenging item reproduced for The Imitation Game?
MinaLima:
The highly complicated intercepted and decrypted documents at Bletchley Park. They are a key part of the narrative and they were at the time methodically handled. The process from noting down the intercepted messages till the decryption was very meticulous and this needed to come across. Extensive research was necessary to understand and authentically recreate the code breaking process. While it was a challenge it became an obsession to get it right. We were very lucky to have help and support from Bletchley Park and also from the historian and writer Joel Greenburg. Much of the graphic props reproduced for The Imitation Game are now part of an exhibition currently at Bletchley Park.

ASFF: The Harry Potter films have been described as your big break- how did you manage to secure work on the film series
MinaLima:
Having worked on all eight films we can say that we established the visual graphic style of the series and this continuity cemented a sense of authenticity within the created world of Harry Potter. We continue to be heavily involved with Harry Potter, from designing collectible merchandise and books to the street graphics for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and Japan, fan conventions and beyond. Harry Potter was a great production to be a part of. It was like a big family! It was 10 years of really hard work and we owe a lot to our experiences during that time. Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan (Production Designer and Set Decorator on all the HP films) always encouraged the team to anchor their designs through visual references, be it in architecture typography or decoration. Though the stories are set in the present day, we chose to take historical visual styles and shift them ever so slightly into our fantasy environment, rather than invent a completely new language from scratch. This created a credible sense of a “magical” world which had long existed, which is what was intimated in the stories. Our duty is always to serve the story, not just to design for the sake of design! The initial hiring to work on the first film was for four months turned into eight films over 10 years.

ASFF: Do you do any work outside of film?
MinaLima: Films are the core of our studio. We are due to be heavily involved in a much anticipated film production this year. We have just finished working on a new adaptation of Warner Bros’ Tarzan which reunited us with David Yates (director of the last four Harry Potter films) and production designer Stuart Craig. Alongside our film work we design books and commercial packaging. Recently we collaborated with Lush Cosmetics to design a packaging range for their new limited edition gift sets. We have 3 books being published this year, they include Bigfoot is Missing (published by Chronicle Books – out 1 April) an eccentric and humorous illustrated study of mysterious creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. In addition Harper Design commissioned us to repackage the classic stories of Peter Pan (out in June 2015) and The Jungle Book (out in November 2015) with new original illustrations and exclusive 3D interactive elements. We are also very busy and committed to our online store www.minalima.com/store. As an official Warner Bros. licensee, we produce and retail limited edition art prints of iconic graphic props from the Harry Potter films and also a brand and exclusive new Harry Potter stationery range. Also, the eccentricities of the English language inspired our Woop Studios collection, where you can find collective noun art prints, homeware, stationery and books.

ASFF: How did you both meet?
MinaLima: Mira 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 from Brazil and wanted to come and live in London, and that friend was literally the only person she knew who was doing graphics. In fact she told Eduardo: “You should call Mira: she’s doing graphics for a movie about a young wizard or something”. It all started there! For 10 years we were committed to the Harry Potter world and we used to joke about having our own studio together one day – MinaLima Design. When the films came to an end in 2010 we needed a reason to stick together creatively, so the studio idea was the natural next step.

To find out more about MinaLima Design, visit www.minalima.com.

Credits
1. The Imitation Game image courtesy of MinaLima Design.