Interview: MinaLima Attends SND Chicago

Earlier this month, MuggleNet caught up with MinaLima, graphic designers of the Harry Potter films, as they spoke at a conference put on by the Society for News Design. SND Chicago is a three-day event with dozens of panels that were planned both for and by working members in the field of news design, and this year celebrated its 40th anniversary as a conference.

Designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima were invited to speak about their involvement in developing the entire graphic style of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series, especially the newsprint headlines of the Daily Prophet and other in-universe publications.

After an impressive introductory video, MinaLima spoke about how they became entrusted with such a monumental task, how they found each other professionally, and the lessons they learned along the way. Once their planned discussion concluded, they took questions from the audience of news and design makers.

In an exclusive interview with MuggleNet, MinaLima spoke further about their various artistic inspirations, recent trips, and plans around the globe. They also took the time to promote their new personalized Hogwarts acceptance letters (which Miraphora Mina writes personally, by hand!).

When asked about their forthcoming return to Osaka, Japan, Miraphora Mina said, “Last year, we sort of tested the waters by doing two pop-ups for a week each. But this time, it’s going to be a little bit more substantial. So it’s really exciting. We’ve got some wizards working over there as we speak, actually.” Eduardo Lima added, “We plan to open it this month, but we do not know the exact date. And that is sort of a soft opening because the grand opening is when we are going to go there in May,” to which Mira replied, “It’s really exciting because that corner of the world has the park, but there’s not much else there, and when we went there before, we had the most extraordinary reception from people. We fell in love with Japan, so we’re going back.”

Miraphora Mina, who was brought on to do graphic design work on the very first Potter film (before meeting Eduardo), was excited for her journey to come full circle now as she is designing handmade Hogwarts letters available for sale on the MinaLima website. We asked if this was the first prop that she worked on.

Yes! Weirdly, it’s like Harry. Because it was my first induction into the wizarding world. I didn’t really understand what was coming, probably in the same way that he did [not understand]. And I was the only person doing that piece and I had to be McGonagall for a moment. Just as we try and become all the other characters when we are creating the props. […] And we also take orders for personalized letters. You can type in your requested name, address… If you’d like to have a cupboard under the stairs, that’s fine as well. And we’ve created a really nice presentation box, which is made from Japanese silk and is handmade and hand blocked in gold.

Toward the end of our interview, we also touched on the circus posters that MinaLima designed for the Circus Arcanus in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Miraphora spoke on the grandeur found in circus posters of the era.

Most circuses that we’re all familiar with, they’ll think of spectacle. There’s humor, it’s fun, it’s a showy situation. And even when we looked at graphics references from old circuses, there’s a grandeur to them. But this one we knew from the start, in talking to Jo and David Yates, that it had this slightly sinister twist to it. So we had to try and show both a circus enterprise that had to show that ‘come to us!’ thing but also that there was a bit of a twist to it. So those posters, the choice of typography and the colors, that Maledictus poster for Nagini is both meant to make her look glamorous but is a bit sinister. There’s a lot of black. The fonts are a little slightly aggressive.

We certainly learned a lot (as usual) from speaking with MinaLima. Be sure to check out the entire 18-minute interview below!



Full Transcript with Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina, Friday, April 5, 2019

Transcribed by Marissa Osman

Eric Scull: We are here with Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, together, MinaLima!

Miraphora Mina: Hello! Hi!

Eduardo Lima: Hello, MuggleNet!

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: It's great to see you guys again.

Miraphora: Thanks for having us.

Eduardo: We love seeing you guys again.

Eric: And in Chicago no less! Where I'm from.

Eduardo: It's fun because this is our second time in Chicago. The first time we came here was 2012, for LeakyCon.

Eric: Oh, yes!

Eduardo: When we launched our website and we had only four prints. Now we [unintelligible] that. Unfortunately, that time, we didn't have time to see Chicago, and this time we managed the city a bit more.

Miraphora: Yeah, the wizards didn't let us out of the hotel.

Eric: Yes, very tight security for sure! Now you have over 300 prints, you said, that are being sold.

Eduardo: Yeah. And growing.

Eric: And growing. House of MinaLima. You recently announced the Japan extension again. Osaka. You're returning to Osaka?

Eduardo and Miraphora: Yeah.

Miraphora: Well, previously, last year, we tested the waters by doing two pop-ups for a week each, but this time it's going to be a little more substantial. It's really exciting.

Eduardo: And longer.

Miraphora: So we've got some wizards working over there as we speak, actually.

Eduardo: It to open this month. We don't know yet the exact date.

Eric: You said this month?

Eduardo and Miraphora: Yeah.

Eric: Okay. That's exciting.

Eduardo: That's going to be a soft opening because the grand opening is when we're going to go there in May. But all the dates we'll get to you later.

Eric: We'll check the website.

Miraphora: It's really exciting because I think that corner of the world... It has the park, but there's not much else there. When we went before, we had the most extraordinary reception from people, and somehow, they knew about MinaLima as well as knowing about Harry Potter. We fell in love with Japan, so we're going back.

Eduardo: Basically, our dream is to have a House of MinaLima everywhere.

Eric: So many houses!

[Everyone laughs]

Miraphora: [Eduardo's] ever so slightly ambitious.

Eduardo: We need to have one here in America.

Miraphora: What do you reckon, Chicago?

Eric: Well, Chicago for sure. I did hear you guys were just in New York, though. I don't know if that was related; taking in some sights?

Miraphora: Well, we do have another life which is designing books, so we work with some publishers there.

Eric: Oh!

Eduardo: Yeah, we illustrate the classics with Harper Collins, so we were there talking about it because we're launching a new one this year! Alice in Wonderland.

Eric: Oh, I saw the book cover during the presentation here. It looked great.

Eduardo: It's September, I think, coming out.

Eric: No, we'd love to have a House of MinaLima here. Especially in Chicago. That'd be great.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: We lost the bid for the Skywalker Museum, or the big Star Wars, Lucas, museum a couple of years ago. There were some protests and things. People didn't want Star Wars here.

Miraphora: Really?

Eric: Yeah. So I think...

Miraphora: Maybe because they're waiting for a wizard shaped something...

Eric: I think Harry Potter might win where Star Wars failed.

Eduardo: Where did the Skywalker Museum move to?

Eric: Probably two years ago, I think it's actually going in Denver or San Francisco. I could be wrong. Not my area of specialty. But it was something exciting that geeks in Chicago could look forward to. And House of MinaLima I guarantee I'd get the apartment across the street.

Miraphora: Aw!

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Because the members of MuggleNet staff that have been to London any time... I visited the season before it came out, or before it opened. I was very disappointed when it opened; I was like, "Ah, I missed it!"

Eduardo: You'll have to go back to London.

Eric: I will! I try. I need to renew my passport.

[Eduardo laughs]

Eric: But I did make it out to Watford for the Studio Tour.

Miraphora: Yeah, so special.

Eric: That was just, as always, a great showcase of your guys' work and just the best scope of those films, which is really super exciting. So during the panel, you talked about the transition from... you thought it was going to be maybe a couple of weeks, it turned into a couple of years, the films were announced - that they'd actually complete the series - and gradually turning into selling your work. Being able to get the license from Warner Brothers and selling your work. And that's come to a head now with these personalized letters. I saw the intro video on the website which brought a tear to my eye.

Miraphora: Aw!

[Eduardo laughs]

Eric: Because I imagine... was this not the first prop that you designed?

Miraphora: Yeah. Weirdly, it's kind of like Harry, because it was my first induction into the Wizarding World. I didn't really understand what was coming probably in the same way that he did. It was that and, of course, I was the only person doing that piece, and I had to be McGonagall for a moment just as we try and become all the other characters when we're creating those props. So we've asked a few times and now we've got permission to both recreate Harry's letter with this hand...

Eric: [jokingly] That hand right there?

Miraphora: ... which still works. Yeah.

Eric: Oh, wow. [laughs]

Eduardo: [joking referring to Miraphora's hand] And I put this hand in a little box.

Miraphora: A glass box.

Eric: With lotion.

Eduardo: And unscrew it.

Miraphora: Feed it.

[Everyone laughs]

Miraphora: And then we also take orders for personalized letters, so on our brand new website that you've just seen, you can type in your requested name, address, if you want to have The Cupboard Under the Stairs that's fine too.

Eduardo: But it's 100% an exact replica. The paper, the envelope, everything is the same that we used for the film. We still have some stock...

Miraphora: Just twenty years older.

[Everyone laughs]

Eduardo: And even the letter inside, as well, is all handwritten, so everything is exactly how it was.

Miraphora: And we thought, well, we just can't send the letter out as it is because we don't have any owls for everywhere, and they get damaged, and they're too heavy, and people know those stories. So we've created a really nice presentation box which is made from Japanese silk which is handmade and hand-blocked in gold by the same bookbinders that made all the books for the Harry Potter films, so we sort of kept it in the family.

Eric: Yeah. I saw the stars on the print. That was just so special and moving so that's really exciting! Here's a question - you touch on this on the panel - drawing inspiration. You said you really try to find real-world equivalents, visiting the New-York Historical Society for MACUSA stuff, 1920s business cards, that sort of thing. Outside of the existing work you can find, where do you draw inspiration as artists, as creators, as graphic designers?

Miraphora: Oh, where do we start. We were on a boat tour this morning of Chicago...

Eric: Oh, you did the Architectural Tour? That's what I would have recommended!

Miraphora: ... and you find yourself, without even realizing, you taking pictures of the underside of the iron bridges because it's got a really interesting style pattern.

Eduardo: Or the water's reflecting the buildings.

Miraphora: Look at this carpet.

[Eduardo laughs]

Miraphora: I mean it's not great, but there will be a moment where that will be right for some design, so there's stuff around us all the time. Unless it's a specific research project where you're actually honing in on that subject.

Eduardo: And remember, we are 400 years old.

[Miraphora laughs]

Eric: You don't look a day over 300.

[Everyone laughs]

Eric: Art history-wise, are there any movements that you're really moved by or find influenced?

Eduardo: We used to love the 15th...

Miraphora: Mid-century.

Eduardo: But since we've started working on Fantastic Beasts, the 1920s and '30s, I think now...

Miraphora: I think from an applied graphic point of view because so much of it was done by hand; you look at the posters and they're all crafted by hand, painted, illustrated, drawn, and to be asked to recreate that, you have to go through the same process. You can't really just ask the computer to do it. So it's funny when you're researching for a film, you're looking at things in a different way than you might if you just enjoy the Art Nouveau period as a whole. You start to examine how things are printed and what was available to people, what kind of techniques were available for things, and that can also give you a new appreciation for how things might have been made. It might be in ceramic tiles, or it might be in metal-work or printing techniques.

Eduardo: And me, because being Brazilian and living in London for twenty years, I'm still so in love with the Victorian graphics as well. The letterpress...

Miraphora: Oh, we have great museums to explore that in London.

Eric: I'm trying to think between tiles, tapestries, if there's anything you guys haven't worked on yet in the twenty years - even just on Potter - that you'd love to.

Miraphora: Hm. We've done fabrics, papers, marble floors.

Eduardo: Well, we haven't done mobile screens and things like that.

Miraphora: Oh, don't invite that.

[Everyone laughs]

Eduardo: The [wizarding] world would not have mobiles. But we have the Phoenix book that is the wizard...

Miraphora: Equivalent of FaceTime?

Eduardo: Yeah.

Eric: oh, yeah!

Eduardo: For the way that Flamel and Dumbledore talk.

Eric: FaceTime. That's so funny. It's a good way of putting it.

Miraphora: Yeah. Because it's not really a book.

Eric: I was trying to see if it was like CCTV was my equivalent? Or security? Because there are some instances where they're just overlooking.

Miraphora: But they see each other though.

Eric: They see each other. That is FaceTime. I look forward to seeing that effect again. That book cover is one of the glorious book covers. It's really wonderful.

Miraphora: Aw.

Eric: I can't wait to see it again. I wonder if it's sort of pre-Order of the Phoenix. I don't know. That's a theory.

Miraphora: I wish we knew.

[Everyone laughs]

Miraphora: Literally. Sometimes when we were designing things we were like, "Where does this go? What's coming next?" No idea. Just got to do your best for that story at the moment.

Eric: Yeah. So again, about the shop. Just switch gears here real quick. There's a request that one of our staffers sent in. She really loves the posters you did for Globus Mundi that you guys did down in the Wizarding World and was hoping to get some of those prints available in the House of MinaLima sometime soon.

Eduardo: We are going to Orlando on Sunday. And we still haven't seen...

Miraphora: We haven't seen it in its realization. We sent all the files from the UK.

Eduardo: So we're going to have a word with Universal so we can release those as the posters.

Eric: They're so good. The travel posters are just so exciting.

Eduardo: Yeah. I love the Amazon one.

Eric: The Paris one is a hit too with the black cat. Everybody loves the black cat.

Miraphora: Aw. Well, that's good to know that that's been spotted.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. You also mentioned humor in your graphics. And not to the point where it's jarring, but certainly because Harry's world is whimsical. Finding the way. And I've always found your graphics to be hilarious as well as exciting, and cool, and engaging. Or maybe the humor makes them engaging as well. But I think that will be more important even ever than it ever has been as the Fantastic Beast series takes a darker turn towards World War II. Do you have any comment on keeping the humor or keeping a lighter tone in your graphics? Or if you anticipate that still being the case as we wage war.

Eduardo: I think maybe on the wizarding graphics maybe we might be allowed to do a little bit like that. But on Fantastic Beasts it's different because we see a lot of the No-Maj world, so you need to be a little bit more not correct with what was happening. Every time we go off, it's...

Miraphora: It depends on the story. If she gives us material that gives us the occasion to express something more lighthearted then we'll do it, but I think until we know what that is. If we're designing for Grindelwald, then there's...

Eduardo: There's nothing. [laughs]

Miraphora: There's not much space. It would be wrong. We might bring style and design because - let's face it - he does take great care of his appearance, his environment. Whether it's real or fake we're not sure, but even historically that castle that he inhabits. We're sort of like, "Well, there's a real showmanship going on there." So it's down to the design team and the graphic design to communicate that to the audience. In terms of the humor I hope there's still some in there, but we won't know until we see the script.

Eric: You mention showmanship. The circus is a great example, I think. The banners, and it's a very great feeling of grandeur in the scenes.

Miraphora: And that's an interesting one because, actually, most circuses that we're familiar with - if you say circus - in someone's mind they'll think of spectacle and apart from maybe how some of the animals are treated you will think of something positive; it's fun. There's humor; it's a showy situation. And even when we've looked at graphics, references from old circuses, they're very showy and there's a grandeur to them. But this one we knew from the start, talking to Jo and David Yates, that it had this slightly sinister twist to it. So again, we had to reign that in a bit and show both a circus enterprise that needed to, "Come to our..." When we were doing our posters, they're like, "Come to our thing because there's stuff going on!" But we needed to show that there was also a bit of a twist to it. So the choice of typography, and the colors, and that Maledictus poster for Nagini is both meant to make her glamorous, but it is also a bit sinister. There's a lot of black, the fonts are a little aggressive, slightly.

Eduardo: Because when you look at a traditional circus from that era, they are much more fun, and colorful, and attractive. This one is like, "Come!" It would be cool to go in and see that, but it is much more sinister.

Eric: We're so thrilled to have a team behind it that's doing their research and producing such quality worlds.

[Eduardo and Miraphora laugh]

Eric: It's really a blast to see your work reflect the joy that I get from reading those books and watching those films. It's just a truly magical experience. [sarcastic] I don't know how many times you've heard that. "It's so magical."

[Eduardo and Miraphora laugh]

Eric: People have spotted a circus poster in the first Fantastic Beasts film?

Miraphora: Oh, yeah.

Eric: Kind of just in a back alley or somewhere?

Miraphora: Yeah.

Eric: Was that in the script, do you know?

Miraphora: Well, funny enough, it was, and the scene was cut. So I think there was some decision to shake the end of the film. We did design that with a view to...

Eduardo: It was a hint.

Miraphora: Of what's coming. But I think it was a decision from the direction and editing about how best to inform what was coming. But no, that was originally designed for that.

Eric: And just as a final question. I know, looking forward but keeping it with Fantastic Beasts, the rumor - and feel free to not be able to confirm nor deny - is that we're heading to Brazil, possibly Rio de Janeiro. Eduardo, I know you're from Brazil.

Eduardo: I'm crossing every single finger that I have on my hand because I really can't wait if we go there.

Miraphora: We haven't started work on production, so we haven't read the script. We don't know.

Eduardo: I know there's lots of noise on Twitter from Jo, from [unintelligible] and yeah, I'm hoping. Because it would be amazing to show the wizarding world [in] my country.

Miraphora: You would have to translate everything.

Eduardo: And I would have to work really hard because everyone in the department's going to ask me to translate everything.

Miraphora: Anyway. Until we know, we don't know.

Eric: Yeah! No, that's totally fine. So again, where can people get these customized letters? Just wrapping up here.

Eduardo: [laughs]

Miraphora: And not only that, but we have got a brand-new website.

Eric: A brand new website to check out.

Miraphora: From this week. It really is squeaky clean, so forgive us if there'[re] any little bugs.

Eric: And I know you'll probably be inundated with requests for those letters. Is there a standard turn-around time, or?

Miraphora: Yes, in fact...

Eduardo: Each letter takes a couple of things to get done.

Miraphora: But also, it depends. Especially if it's a bespoke one for an address and a personalized one, we just need to allow. Because if we're working on other things and if there's a few of them.

Eric: If that right hand is busy.

Miraphora: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

[Everyone laughs]

Miraphora: It's like the Addams Family. It just goes.

Eric: Oh, yeah! Thing.

Eduardo: As I said, because every single thing is hand-done. So it can take quite a long time to get one letter done.

Eric: From McGonagall.

Eduardo: From McGonagall, yes. [to Miraphora] You should wear a cloak when you're...

Miraphora: How do you know I don't?

Eduardo: You're right.

Eric: Secrets!

[Everyone laughs]

Eduardo: And a hat.

Eric: Well, thank you so much for your time.

Eduardo: Pleasure.

Miraphora: You're welcome.

Eric: It was great to catch up to you, as always. Bye, everybody!

Eduardo and Miraphora: Bye!

Eric S.

Eric Scull joined MuggleNet in November of 2002. Since that time, he’s presided over a number of sections, including name origins and Dear Hogwarts, but none so long as the recently revived Crazy Caption Contest. Eric is a Hufflepuff who lives in Chicago and loves the outdoors.