Recently I went to the lecture at St Bride Foundation, ‘Creating Worlds To Believe In: The Secrets of Designing Graphics for Film’ by a graphic designer Annie Atkins. She specializes in graphic design for films and TV shows such as Grand Budapest Hotel, The Boxtrolls and Penny Dreadful. It was an interesting lecture and Annie herself was funny and vibrant. The below are my notes from the lecture.
The reason they need a graphic designer for a film or TV show
Most part of her job is to create graphics in films. Annie said there is at least one full-time graphic designer on a set of a film or a TV drama. All the fictional documents, posters, paintings, shop signs, street signs, packages, textile patterns and websites are designed by graphic designers.
These graphics are to make the audiences believe that this fictional world exists somewhere, not just in the cinema screen. Even if the graphics are not noticed by the audiences or off-camera, they serve to help directors and actors on the set.
Start with a reference
One thing I was impressed with her work is how detailed it is and it is based on the huge amount of research she does. Referencing the real world help the cinematic world seem realistic. As her specialty is periodic drama, she recommended going to markets and museums for students to see the real size and material because “Google image search isn’t really good.”
Design as the craftsman did
Her first job was The Tudors Season3. There was no graphic designer in Tudor period. There were craftsmen.
She always tries to produce the graphics in the similar process they were made at the time in drama. If the letters on the sign were drawn by hand at that period, she draws them by hand and scans them. If the poster was supposed to be printed by letterpress, she chooses the typeface and printing method that look like letterpress.
Usually there are no proofreaders for the graphics in films. The designers have to make sure there is no mistake. However, there are always mistakes. If the mistake is noticeable, it must be corrected at post-production.
However, she said she is not too worried about this type of mistakes. You do not notice this while you are watching The Grand Budapest Hotel. If you want to check if it was historically correct or not, it proves that the graphic looked realistic enough.
1,2: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Directed by Wes Anderson
3: Penny Dreadful, created by John Logan, Showtime and Sky Atlantic
4: Poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel, designed by Annie Atkins
5: Shepherd’s, Cairo
6: Screenshot from IMDB, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)