Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima have spent the better half of a decade designing the details that bring to life the magical world of Harry Potter – the books that line the shelves of Dumbledore’s office, the labels on the treats at Honeydukes and the wanted posters that blacklist Sirius Black, all featured in the film series.
In fact, they even designed the prop for the book entitled Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, which was on Harry’s curriculum at Hogwarts. The ‘author’ of this book, Newton Artemis Fido ‘Newt’ Scamander, is the central character in a spin-off story which will play out in a highly anticipated series of five films, the first of which hits cinemas this Friday. It seemed only fitting that the duo continue designing for the world of wizardry in this new series, too.
While the Newt and Harry’s worlds are related and have some commonalities, the two stories are set in different time periods; Newt being the older of the two wizards, his story takes place in the 1920s, while Harry wasn’t born until 1980. This meant that the worlds had to look distinctly different from one another – and the graphic art would play a significant part in tying the story to its time.
The posters that line the streets of 1920s New York, for instance, had to reflect the times in more than just the choice of typography, colours and layouts. “We actually spent an entire week in New York researching language!” Lima recalls. “We had to make sure the copy on the posters used phrases and words people at the time would use. Even getting the names right on the posters was important, so we browsed through the New York birth registry from those years, to pick names that would have been popular at the time.”
These sort of details weren’t articulated in the Potter novels or in the Fantastic Beasts screenplay, which meant the designers were tasked with filling the gaps.
One of the most striking examples of how nuanced the process of designing for film can be is the look The Daily Prophet, the newspaper for Wizards that exists in both Newt and Harry’s worlds. Mina and Lima had to construct the masthead, the graphic identity, the layout, even headlines for the newspaper – apart from the ones that come up in the plot.
As Lima sees it, “It was like being the editor of The Daily Prophet for the last five years or so. And now I’m ‘editing’ the New York Ghost – a daily for American wizards of Newt’s time.”
The designers allow themselves a little playfulness when designing newspapers, posters and books for the films, sometimes working their own logo or names of their friends and family members into the artwork. Although of course spotting little details like this while watching the finished film is almost impossible.
One can’t help but mourn that these works of art that add great value to a scene go unnoticed and uncelebrated, especially in the more dramatic scenes with magic spells, flying wizards and mythical creatures.
“But that’s the thing about designing props,” Lima explains. “If the audience notices them, you haven’t done a good job. They mustn’t distract from the characters, unless they play an active role in the story. However, if there’s an error like a misspelt name or a wrong street sign, audiences will definitely notice!”
Forty original artworks designed for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them will be on show at The House of MinaLima in Soho in London, where these finer details lost in the larger picture can be mulled over and appreciated.
Two books designed by the duo will also be launched at the exhibition; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – An Original Screenplay, designed by MinaLima, and A Case of Beasts – Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which offers a look behind the scenes of the film.
The exhibition will be on display at the House of MinaLima from 00:01am on Friday 18 November (when the film releases) to February 4 2018.