Inspiration

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Trailblazers: A little bit of magic at Mina Lima

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When Miraphora (Mina) and Eduardo (Lima) met on the set of the first Harry Potter film back in 2001, they joined forces to imagine and create the graphic universe that would become the entire Harry Potter film series. After seven years working together, the two founded their own design studio, MinaLima, in 2009 where they’ve continued to design for the Harry Potter empire (including all of the graphic elements at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios), as well as self-initiated projects such as their Collective Nouns in Pictures and the House of MinaLima which finds its home on 26 Greek Street, Soho. We chatted to one half of this wizarding duo, Mina, about the slightly magical world her and Eduardo have created.

Hello Mina. How did you end up in a career designing film graphics? Was it planned?

No, there was no clear path into the films! I started out working in art departments as a junior but in 1996 I worked on Jane Campion’s, Portrait of a Lady, simply because they needed some graphics doing. I absolutely loved it and found it so fulfilling so after that it was quite easy to forge a path into designing graphics for film because there weren’t many people doing it at the time and it leant towards a lot of the skills I was most interested in such as; typography, designing ephemera and interesting details as well as incidental bits and bobs.

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Have you had to become an ‘expert’ in a few different areas if you’ve been designing graphics for a film set in a specific era or situation?

You would have thought so, but actually much of our work is about cheating or finding ways to make something look as fitting for its period in the quickest way possible, so I’ve only really ever skimmed the surface! That said, when we worked on The Imitation Game we had to think a lot about the sequence of events and having the right decoding documents at the right time - that was a lot of responsibility.

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How about on the Harry Potter films, the scope of the tasks there must have been enormous?

Yes! With Harry Potter we had to design all the street signage and usual film graphic pieces, but there were also so many ‘hero props’ to design, all of which drove the story in some way. Although the books were very good at giving you the feeling of a situation, there was never that much description about the physical appearance of things so we didn’t have much to go on. The Marauder’s Map, for example, was a magical map which revealed all of Hogwarts including every classroom, every hallway, and every corner of the castle. It was a very important prop, but we had barely anything to go on in the original text, so we had to ask ourselves; how would the four characters who created it have made it? We had to be quite cunning like this a lot of the time.

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We can imagine designing in 3D whilst carrying the expectations of legion of Harry Potter fans worldwide must have been daunting! What were the other more challenging 3D props?

So many! There were enchanted coins, Horcruxes, The Triwizard Cup, Tom Riddle’s diary and more, which all needed to look handmade and magical!

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So you and Eduardo met on the first film and have worked together every day since?

Yes exactly, we’ve worked together everyday since 2001. Slowly we started saying to each other “when we have our own studio” and eventually our idea became reality. When we formed MinaLima we started taking more risks on self-initiated projects as well, which were ideas we’d had for a long time but had never been able to see through.

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What are you guys working on in 2017?

We’ve been working with HarperCollins on a series of vintage-looking story books, so far we’ve created Peter Pan and The Jungle Book all with paper props inside and we have a few more in this series to bring to life. From February onwards we’ll also be working on the next Fantastic Beasts film which is no small task!

We’d also like to take the House of MinaLima abroad, either to America or France, so we need to spend a bit of time planning that.

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Tell us more about the House of MinaLima, it looks like it was a lot of fun to create?

We didn’t want to create a standard retail or gallery experience, so as well as creating a shop and an art space we wanted the House of MinaLima to be an immersive experience where people could walk around and interact with the exhibition. It was a lot of fun to decorate and create, and we’re very happy that we’re going to be staying put! We were only supposed to be on Greek Street until February 4th, but we’ve just found out we can stay!

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Are there any films you wish you’d worked on?

It’s rare that you get time to shine in this industry so I really admire Annie Atkins’ work on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Elsewhere, I really love Almodóvar’s films.

What about a project you’d like to graphically bring to life if it was ever made into a film?

Not a film, but I’ve always wanted to animate and bring the song Nature Boy by Nat King Cole to life. We’d like to play more with moving image and animation at MinaLima. It’s on our list of things to do!

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Tell us more about your Collective Nouns in Pictures!

We started this in 2010 with two other partners and no backing, so we needed to do all of the printing ourselves to keep costs down. This meant setting up a studio in my back garden which we could print in as there was no other way to do it!

It’s been really fun seeing how the different nouns sell, there were some which we thought would never sell that people went crazy for! Our most popular prints are the more obvious ones such as 'An Embarrassment of Pandas' and “A Parliament of Owls', but also a lot of the bird ones such as 'A Charm of Finches' sell really well.

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