MinaLima Q&A: Telling Stories Through Design
On September 16, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the founders of MinaLima, took part in a Q&A called “Telling Stories Through Design” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The duo first met each other on the set of the Harry Potter films, where they were tasked with bringing J.K. Rowling’s universe to life. After finishing their work on the movies in 2009, they founded their own studio, MinaLima.
Despite their relatively humble beginnings, when the studio consisted of just them, they have grown tremendously and now employ four assistant designers. Throughout working on the Harry Potter films, they said that J.K. Rowling trusted them to bring her world to life. She only visited the movie sets occasionally but was particularly interested in the newspaper front-page designs that the duo developed. Reflecting on how the use of technology has changed, they talked about how every prop within the first Potter film was designed without computers. The industry has also grown dramatically. Eduardo recalled that in 2001 there were a handful of graphic designers working in film in London; now there are over 200. He also suggested that the Harry Potter franchise has influenced the film industry’s approach to graphic design, as productions endeavor to achieve the level of detail and world building seen in Potter.
When working on Harry Potter, the pair revealed that they didn’t receive many hints from Rowling regarding the future films. This meant that they occasionally designed props that ended up playing a much larger role than they envisioned. For example, Miraphora said that she would have spent more time on Helga Hufflepuff’s cup if she had known it would be copied hundreds of times in Deathly Hallows. Rowling did, however, hint that the Advanced Potions Making book would play a much larger role than they would have expected. When asked about their favorite graphic props from Harry Potter, Miraphora chose the Marauder’s Map whereas Eduardo preferred his work on issues of the Daily Prophet. Both enjoyed the elements of humor that were involved in creating these props, especially since, Miraphora explained, humor is a feature of Harry Potter that is often forgotten about.
Their work has not been constrained to the Harry Potter universe. They spoke of the challenge of designing props for The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Whereas their previous work on Harry Potter and The Golden Compass had involved bringing a fictional world to life, The Imitation Game involved re-creating a world that already existed.
A number of people from the audience asked what they could do to be noticed in the competitive industry of film graphic design. The pair said that there is no one “template” for getting into the industry, and when they hire designers, they look for attention for detail, a curiosity for the historical, and experience. They lamented that practical career advice did not form a larger part of college and university courses.
The pair is now busy working on the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series. If you didn’t make their talk on Saturday, you can view all of their beautiful work at the House of MinaLima!