Annie Atkins created the graphics Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“Last year I spent a very snowy winter on the German-Polish border, as the lead graphic designer on Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. Working with Wes and his production designer Adam Stockhausen, we created all the graphic props and set-pieces for the State of Zubrowka – a fictitious European country set between the Wars. After we finished shooting I came back to Dublin and worked remotely with Wes on the poster and the titles.”
Designing for the fictional past… In its meticulous creation of the State of Zubrowka in Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, graphic designer Annie Atkins was responsible for every graphic prop in the movie. All perfectly stylish, authentic and vintage fun…
“This was huge-over 200 different documents & you have to do 12 copies of everything, or 30 or 40 if they’re going to get covered in blood & destroyed. I did the calligraphy myself. We wouldn’t use handwriting fonts or anything like that. Everything had to be aged too. It shouldn’t look like it was made in an art department five minutes ago. We’d make a big pot of tea & dab it at the edges. There was one letter that Madame D has signed with a kiss. We had to get Tilda Swinton’s lipstick from the mak-up department so that it was exactly the right shade, but I think it was a graphics intern who did the kiss itself.”
-Annie Atkins, Graphic Designer for The Grand Budapest Hotel
I have always been a huge fan of Wes Anderson; his dreamy palettes and unique style of narrative often leave you thinking about his films for weeks to come, but the Grand Budapest Hotel had me truly absorbed. For once I wished the quick! quick! quick! pace of the film, that I had previously loved, would slow down a smidgen to enable revelry in the details.
Indeed it is those smaller, meticulously researched details that I feel make the film stand out as a stellar piece. An interview from Creative Review with Annie Atkins, the lead graphic designer for the film, shed light on the processes and fascinating background behind each and every graphic prop.
CR: Can you talk us through the process for creating the various graphic props in the film? How closely was Wes Anderson involved in this?
Wes is completely involved in every aspect of his filmmaking, and I worked very closely with him and the production designer, Adam Stockhausen, every day. This film was particularly fun, I think, from a graphics point of view, because we were creating this entirely fictional country that Wes had written - the State of Zubrowka. It meant that every little detail had to be made from scratch - flags, banknotes, postage stamps, everything. Adam had already collected a huge amount of reference from 1930s Eastern Europe when I joined them, and I would start each graphic prop by showing Wes a real artefact from the time. I would show him redrafts of designs sometimes 20 times a day. Wes has a very graphic sensibility - that’s evident in all his films, of course.
I am already anticipating the DVD release to be able to freeze each frame and absorb even more wonderful detail.
At last. I doubt I have been this eager to watch any other film.
I still can’t find the words. In the period of 36 hours I’ve felt both immense love and disappointment, as it was equally great or safely great and lacking gravitas. I don’t know, perhaps I’ve lost my mind. The art direction on the other had my heart skipping beats, and It is safe to say I would watch this film in any language, or in absolute silence, as long as I see it in its full delicious and colorful glory. Special thanks to Annie Atkins (leading graphic designer).