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Interview: Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima

We talk to the Harry Potter graphic designers about The Printorium

by Paolo Ferrarini in Design on 04 December 2012

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Launched in September 2012, The Printorium is the latest project by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, founders of MinaLima Design. Mina and Lima met on the set of the Harry Potter films and, after working for almost 10 years in defining the graphic identity of the saga from props to posters, decided to open their own creative firm. MinaLima is centered on graphics for films, but they've also worked on editorial, web and other special projects.

The Printorium is the natural evolution of their design process for Harry Potter,which led to a license from Warner Bros. to print limited-edition designs from the set. Made in London, the signed prints feature book covers from Hogwart's Library, the first page of "The Daily Prophet" newspaper, The Marauder's Map and a poster for the 422nd Quidditich World Cup. We recently met Mina and Lima at their studio to talk about their latest venture.

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How did you meet and why did you decide to work together?

Mina:Twelve years ago I started working on the very first Harry Potter film as a graphic designer and on the second film Eduardo joined me, kind of by serendipity. We met through a mutual friend—Eduardo is Brazilian and wanted to come and live in London, and that friend was literally the only person he knew who was doing graphics.

Lima: In fact she told me: "You should call Mira, she's doing graphics for a movie about a young wizard or something." It simply happened.

Mina: It just worked out, it was one of those lucky coincidences. For 10 years we were committed to the Potter world and we used to joke about having our own studio together one day. We had been working freelance for almost 10 years as individual crew members that were hired out each time. Though exciting, it is also difficult to maintain coherence when you are freelance as everything tends to dissolve at the end of each film project. Since the work environment was rather temporary we were never really able to make roots, to have a permanent creative hub. What happened through the years was that people kept coming to us with little projects, and we couldn't really do them without our own studio.

After a while the idea of the studio became a reality. When we looked for the space, we really wanted it to be a member of the team. The studio kept growing and now there are seven of us, working on three or four different projects at any one time. We are not really experienced in running a design studio but our film art department grounding has helped define our method. We are constantly learning!

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How was The Printorium project born?

Lima: In the Harry Potter films we designed all the graphic props, like the books, maps and newspapers, and since the end of the films we've been designing lots of merchandise as well, like books, packaging for DVDs, online catalogs, basically things that require the aesthetic we had created for the films. Everything was done following specific design conventions which had been established in the films.

Mina: With all this body of work that was designed for purpose, we thought that we could elevate it to make a collectible, graphic art project. A lot of work wasn't seen in the films, or is seen only in the background so it exists as a part of Harry Potter's world. More importantly, we wanted The Printorium to be a complete design project, capable of representing our passion for typography, design, composition and period ephemera. We had the freedom and good fortune to fuse all of this in the Harry Potter films, and it seemed a shame for the substantial body of work to stop there. Warner Bros. was keen to strengthen the brand, and encouraged us to develop this idea as part of their collectible line. The result is a high quality unique art print, collectible not only for the Harry Potter fan. Plus, it is completely made in England, with a Brazilian touch!

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Do you have any kind of relationship with the fan base?

Lima: Last August we went to Chicago for the Harry Potter convention, LeakyCon. It's the biggest convention of this kind with over 4,000 visitors. We took some of the prints and showed images of the original props in a keynote talk. We were expecting a couple of hundred people, but in the end we found ourselves in front of 4,000 fans! Our initial anxiety about delivering something interesting to these loyal fans was quickly tempered by their extraordinary interest in all things design-related. It was very humbling to witness our designs getting applauded one after the other!

Mina: Thanks to the fans we have been made aware that this is a very special project for a designer. We didn't really realize at the time that together with the rest of the art department we were forging the shape of the visuals of something really important for a lot of people all over the world.

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Is The Printorium going to be centered on Harry Potter only?

Mina: The name of the project itself was intended to give a nod to Harry Potter because that is where our creative union was born and what we are primarily selling. It should resonate the old-fashioned allure, the craft, the British origin. However it's a great opportunity for us to showcase and sell our other work, because now we have the infrastructure, the space and the machinery to do so. The idea is to be constantly evolving!

Lima: The core of The Printorium is Harry Potter. We've got more than 200 designs ready to be printed. Everything we print was actually designed for the films and it appeared at least once, even though sometimes only in the background. For example the fictional book "Hogwarts, a History" is mentioned a lot in the film, but you don't actually see it even though we designed and made it.

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You use both computers and traditional printing—can you define yourselves as "digital artisans"?

Lima: What is central to our way of designing is to marry the digital with the analog. We are constantly collating original material, be it textures or old books which are then scanned to our archive. We draw by hand and age our props with coffee and sandpaper, or have to find original ways of cutting. Handwork is still very much part of how we work and on most occasions is the critical beginning.

Mina: This is what we've learned on the set: the props may need to look unique, but we usually had to make multiples of them. And we always had to design knowing that everything must be manufactured on an A3 photocopier! That's what we love in film—you are constantly challenged by having to combine craft with other techniques. In spite of the importance of craft, we are aware that without Photoshop we simply couldn't have done a great part of the work. Another important role is played by research—it's paramount in our work and it's also great fun. At the center of everything is making sure we absolutely enjoy what we do—we need to be smiling!

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Can you unveil some projects for the future?

Mina: We love paper ephemera and all those things that seem coincidental in life, the stuff that is seemingly unimportant or wasn't designed to make a visual statement. We have plans for The Museum of Paper Goods. Watch this space! We are also working for the first time on a branding project, for an independent British Ale.

All prints are produced and printed in the UK using pigment inks on 300gsm Hahnemuhle fine art paper. Each print is edition numbered and embossed and comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The prints are available for for purchase online and at Harrods in London. Images courtesy of MinaLima Design.

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