So the second ever Birmingham Design Festival has wrapped up for another year! And once again it proved to be a jam-packed, creative whirlwind of design, craft, and community, drawing a diverse mix of designers, brands, inspirers, makers and storytellers from far and wide to our home – all to share a stage of common passion and celebrate local talent.
Proud to be an adopted Brummie and fan of all things art and design, I wanted to be more immersed in the action this year, so I was keen to contribute my time to support this amazing brainchild of founders Luke Tonge and Dan Alcorn. I’m also sure someone once said that volunteering is good for the soul! I knew that organising an event of this scale was certainly no mean feat, but being behind the scenes and witnessing first-hand, the nerves and excitement that comes with it, made me realise just how much love, dedication and thought had been poured in – making my experience all the more worthwhile.
Off volunteer duties, I personally swapped my usual Friday night glass of vino, for a much-needed evening of culture and inspiration, taking myself along to the main talk – ‘Celebrating storytelling (Design for Film & TV)’ – with the hope of getting ‘lost in alternate universes and lovingly crafted animation’. Speakers of the night were MinaLima, Erica Dorn, Mike McGee and Gavin Strange.
Creating tiny worlds: Graphic design for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs
Erica Dorn- lead graphic designer for Isle of Dogs- took us behind the scenes of the film’s production, revealing the painstaking level of detail that is created in the typography, props, sets, and supertitles throughout Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed stop-motion. Every tiny graphic of the smallest size imaginable had been designed – think miniscule labels on telephones the size of pennies, neon illuminations lighting up the Megasaki city skyline, and numerous bedroom posters, newspaper clippings and photos – all intricately designed for a set around the size of a double bed.
Often asked if she ever felt disheartened by the scale of work she puts in for a mere few seconds on screen, she explained that ‘actually, no, because the film will live on for years to come, for millions of people to see time and time again’.
Graft, Craft & being Daft
Bouncing onto the stage with an enviable level of energy – Gavin Strange, director and designer for Aardman Animations (the brains behind Wallace & Gromit and Morph) exuded a zest for life that was particularly contagious. What stuck with me amidst the comical GIFs, vibrant colours, and passion projects he shared, was his profound announcement to the audience that ‘one day, our sun will die. Its beautiful death throes will engulf earth, incinerating everything that ever was or is.’ ‘So, don’t stress about the client asking you for that final amend of the logo’, he explained. ‘Just do it, because the world will end’. Life lesson? Don’t sweat the small stuff – life is too short!
Telling Stories through Design
Mira and Eduardo are the design duo that is MinaLima – the studio behind the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films – they have created some of the world’s most well-known, and instantly recognisable props, from Harry Potter’s Acceptance Letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to the Marauders Map and The Daily Prophet newspapers. It is this distinct style and visual storytelling that unravels the magical narrative of Harry Potter, just as much as the actors themselves.
The pair met back in 2002, when Mina was working as an intern on the second film, introducing Lima to her work on ‘a film about wizards’! And nearly 20 years later – now working husband and wife – the magical story of Harry Potter is alive and strong. MinaLima opened a pop-up in Soho, which has by popular demand, turned into a permanent gallery and store showcasing their entire treasury of graphic works. For the avid HP fans among us, it can be found at House of MinaLima, 26 Greek Street, in Soho.
The Evolving Art of Storytelling
From Harry Potter graphics, to the creators of Dobby and Buckbeak, Framestore’s Co-founder and CCO, Mike McGee, immersed us in his Oscar-winning world of VFX; they have created some of the most unforgettable and iconic moments in Film, Television and Advertising – from Game of Thrones, to Guardians of the Galaxy and Downton Abbey. Also (not to be understated) is Christopher Robin. Mike talked us through the process of the visualisation of the lovable stuffed bear that we all know as Winnie the Pooh. From the realisation that bears don’t actually have elbows and knees (back to the drawing board!), through concept paintings and character sculpting, to handcrafting ‘real-life’ soft toys to be used by puppeteers on set, before finally adding the power of CGI. Et voila! A CGI Pooh that really was indecipherable from the stuffed toy Pooh.
I don’t know about you, but when watching certain films I can often be transported to a different place or time, taken on a story through beautiful visuals and actors, but not for one minute had I really stopped to consider the vast amount of creative detail that actually goes into producing even the smallest of frames, for the shortest of seconds on our screens.
So the next time I find myself absorbed in the big (or little) screen, it’s safe to say the magic will definitely not be lost on me. Thanks BDF, I had a blast – until next year…!