annie-atkins

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Handcrafting Fictional Universes for Film with @annieatkins

For more behind-the-scenes photos from life on set, follow @annieatkins. For more Golden Globes-nominated films and the talent behind them, follow @goldenglobes on Instagram and explore the #goldenglobes hashtag.

Graphic designer Annie Atkins (@annieatkins) helps turn fantastical, imaginary settings into intricate realities on screen. Most recently, as the lead graphic designer on the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel, she was involved in creating almost every object in director Wes Anderson’s stylized world. The story takes place in a fictional Eastern European country, set between the First and Second World Wars.

“We looked at all kinds of references from 1930s Eastern Europe: telegrams, notebooks, antique newspapers,” she says. “I combed thrift stores and flea markets looking for old packaging and love letters, so I could get the style of everything from the handwriting to the postage stamps right.”

Originally from a tiny village in North Wales, Annie now lives in Dublin, but her film work draws her to diverse locations—and historical periods.

“I’ve never actually worked on a film or TV show set in the present,” she says. “The graphics I make for film are all for different times in history. I could be making calligraphic scrolls for medieval times or on-screen digital data for a spaceship 2000 light years away.”

Annie also worked on her first animated feature earlier this year, The Boxtrolls, where she texturized a world of misunderstood creatures who live underground and wear cardboard packaging for clothes.

“It was fun designing the graphics for their outfits. We had to create the entire town,” she says. “It’s fun working within a world where absolutely everything has to be invented from scratch.”

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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.”

I use traditional methods in graphic prop-making wherever possible: a real 1930s typewriter for typewritten documents; a dipping pen and ink and for any handwriting. Pieces have to be aged, too, as nothing should look like it was made in an art department five minutes ago. Madame D’s last will and testament took a lot of aging, for example, as it contained over 600 pieces that were scripted as being some 46 years old. I have some tricks of the trade that I’ve learnt over the years… mostly involving a big vat of tea and a hair dryer.

[…]

The beautiful thing about period filmmaking is that you’re creating graphic design for a time before graphic designers existed.

—  Wonderful interview with Annie Atkins, the design genius behind Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. 

Graphic designer Annie Atkins from Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel on the many signs in the lobby of the of contemporary, communist-era form of the 1960s hotel:

“Wes and Adam (Stockhausen, the production designer) had seen so many examples of quite officious signage in what had been communist East Germany - don’t do this, don’t do that, do this but only like that! The signs really added to the claustrophobic feeling of that set, and Wes had asked for them all to be black with simple white hand-painted lettering - based on the style of the old sign at Yorckstrasse subway station in Berlin.”

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As expected Wes Anderson’s new film The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visually arresting cinematic experience. A highlight of the film is all of the handmade graphic elements ranging from title screens to perfume bottles. Check out this awesome interview with Annie Atkins, the chief graphic designer for the film http://www.nylonmag.com/articles/the-grand-budapest-hotel-graphic-design-annie-atkins