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Interview: MinaLima

Showcasing 15 years worth of award-winning, creative collaborative work, the House of MinaLima opened its doors at the beginning of this month.

MinaLima is the design studio of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who first met in 2002 and worked together as graphic designers on the Harry Potter film franchise. They had the unique (and challenging!) chance to create the visual graphic style of the films.

The immersive exhibition is held over four floors, and when I walked in, the first thing I thought was how appropriate the building was for such an exhibit. Narrow, twisted staircases and sloped ceilings was the perfect place to display the incredible work.

Harry Potter fans will feel, as I did, completely transported to the magical world. Alongside the stunning visual displays are authentic props from the films, including Daily Prophet newspapers.

As well as the Harry Potter work on display, the exhibition features MinaLima’s illustrated ‘Collective Noun’ prints, which I completely fell in love with, and other works from the studio including illustrations from The Jungle Book and Peter Pan.

I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Mira and find out more about the duo behind the magic…

What’s the creative process like with you and Eduardo? Did you find you had similar ideas what you wanted to create when it came to the Harry Potter films?

We’re very complimentary in the way that we work, we have the same vision and the same sense of humour – all those things that you need if you’re going to be spending 11 hours a day with someone! We had similar ideas in mind for the Harry Potter work. Things like the Daily Prophet or the Marauders Map we might work on together – one person will start it off and then the other would inevitably end up jumping in – maybe I’ll get stuck with some layout or Eduardo will need a hand drawing. The Daily Prophets for example, Eduardo tended to mastermind the layout and then I would come in to help with the adverts and I would do most of the hand drawing stuff, so that would be where we were most divided. After a couple of years, we realised that the sum of the parts was much greater than us being two individuals so we thought it was better to stick together. In films, everyone tends to be freelance so they’ll work together and then tend to disappear, so about a year before we finished on Harry Potter we just thought: “Let’s set up a studio together.” We set it up with the absolute intention to continue that relationship.

The Harry Potter books were, and still are, one of the most beloved and popular series – what was it like having the responsibility to design the graphic props for something that promised to be so huge?

The funny thing is, we had no idea it would be huge. It seems strange to think that now. When I got the call to work on the first film, they said “Look, we’ve got this film, I don’t know whether you’ve heard of this character…lets see how it goes, it’ll probably be four to five months’ work, and we’ll see what the demands are.” So not only did we underestimate the scale of the project, but also the legacy of what, as you said, has become so familiar, and being able to help create that was a great honour. You start every film project wanting to do the best you can do to make a mark on the story and help it along – it was a happy surprise!

When working on the Harry Potter films, what did you find most challenging and demanding?

Probably when we had to create Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. It was a four-storey store that had to be completely filled with products, we obviously couldn’t buy anything at all, I think that was probably the most demanding. It meant we had to get in extra help – hundreds of bits of packaging that had to be invented, designed and made. I think it was about six months of work, beginning to end.

What was the most fun piece to create?

Oh, I think the Weasley’s shop. We had to get our brains into thinking what a teenage boy would come up with, not what adult designers would do – we had to strip away any logic and good design sense and go crazy – both from a design point of view, and also when coming up with ideas for the products. Not everything was written down in the books – so that was kind of a graphic designers dream really!

How was working on Fantastic Beasts? Did you enjoy stepping back into the magical world?

Absolutely – and it’s set in a different time too, so even when you’re doing muggle stuff, you’re in a period – you’re not having to do real world muggle graphics. It had its new challenges, and then also we had the responsibility to try and keep the thread alive for the fans, we were very aware of making sure we maintained that language that we’d set up, and hoped we’d done it justice! We haven’t seen it yet.

What are you most proud of?

Obviously the Harry Potter franchise as a whole, I think that’s what we are proudest of, but I think being able to set up the design studio and being able to take on other design projects such as packaging and the theme park, things we hadn’t really thought would happen. Because of setting up the studio, and the union that Eduardo and I have together, we found that other projects that we’d never imagined would come our way, have done, and I think that’s something to be proud of. I think setting up a creative space that employs other young designers – I feel quite proud of that; I hadn’t really thought about it until you asked!

Currently, what does a typical day look like for you?

With the new shop/gallery, a typical day might be starting off making sure the shop is hunky dory and that all the candles are lit, stock is on the shelves and pictures are straight! Then we’ve usually got three to four different projects happening in our studio at any one time, which is great as it keeps it so vibrant and keeps the energy dynamic. At the moment there’s a couple of different publishing projects, and the one constant that links them all together is Harry Potter – and now Fantastic Beasts – it’s the constant that doesn’t go away since we left the films! We spent a couple of years working on the Diagon Alley theme park in Orlando, we’ve done a few publishing projects related to the franchise, and it’s really nice to see that all the marketing and publishing side of things is coming together now and wanting to unify the look so that the fans can see the familiar aesthetic that was created in the films, so look out for other things!

What made you decide to open the House of MinaLima?

Well, we had an exhibition last year that was really successful in terms of engaging with fans, being able to see things up close rather than just online, and so we started looking for somewhere else to do something around this Christmas, like a pop-up. The first property we saw was this incredible house just a few doors down from the Palace Theatre (where Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is currently playing) and by the time we got to the top floor and had surveyed the building we just said “Okay, cancel all other appointments!” This was waiting for us to come in, it was so serendipitous, and strange to find something that we hadn’t quite imagined. Once we found the building, the idea changed and rather than just opening a gallery or exhibition we decided to turn it into an immersive experience and embrace the building as part of the exhibit. There was nothing when we went in there, we had to think of all colours, floor coverings, lights, everything, and that was really engaging for us – it was a new discovery and new challenge for us, which I think is the best thing about being a designer.

What does the future hold for MinaLima? 

Well, we know that Fantastic Beasts is a three film franchise, but that’s all we know, in the same way that the public know, we don’t know what’s happening, but it would be nice to think that we’ll be involved. I’m pretty certain our relationship with the whole wizarding world will just get stronger and stronger. We love what we’ve done with the House (of MinaLima), it was a new discovery, I wouldn’t say no to doing that again somewhere else, maybe in another city, we’re very open-minded. We try not to plan too much, but as long as we’re challenged creatively – it gets me out of bed in the mornings!

Which of the Hogwarts houses do you think you’d be sorted into?

According to Pottermore, I’m Hufflepuff, and Eduardo is Ravenclaw!

   

(Images are thanks to MinaLima – obviously except the one of me!)

The House of MinaLima is open at 26 Greek Street, London every day – entry is free…although be prepared to want to buy everything in the shop.

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