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The Grand Graphic Design of The Grand Budapest Hotel

So you’re an ad agency art director toiling on the latest campaign designed to make some mundane consumer product seem really cool. No way that kind of experience will ever get you to Hollywood, right?

Consider Annie Atkins.

Previously an art director for McCann Erikson’s office in Reykjavik, Iceland, Atkins had the job of convincingly bringing to life Wes Anderson’s Dream-like, pastel-infused Eastern Europeanesque town of Zubrowka in the film The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yes, the movie that just won the Oscar for Best Production Design.

Atkins painstakingly designed almost every single aspect of the film, including: typography and lettering by hand for currency, passports, newspapers, signage, stationary, police reports—all of the things you see on a regular basis in any town or city.

“A fictitious country needs all kinds of graphics: flags, banknotes, passports, street signs,” Atkins told Quartz. “It’s impossible to imagine graphics like these. You have to do your research and you’ll find treasures that you couldn’t even have begun to sit down and draw until you saw them in front of your eyes.”

The Grand Budapest Hotel was a project of enormous proportions.

“It was crazy,” Atkins told Creative Review. “There was a tremendous amount of graphics in this one, so my script breakdown was as long as my arm. There’s probably more to graphics in film than is immediately apparent. If a character has a notice board in his office, for example, then you have to fill that board with relevant material, all in the right style for both the period and the director’s vision. You’re not always designing for the camera: much of this work will never be seen by a cinema audience, but still you have to create an atmosphere and a world for the actors to work their magic in.”

Atkins has been working on Sam Mendes and John Logan’s show Penny Dreadful, and Steven Spielberg’s up-and-coming cold war spy movie thriller “St. James Place,” which is set for release in October.

I believe it’s safe to say we will continue to see more awe-inspiring work from Annie Atkins in the future. She is a bright, talented designer and I look forward to continuing to follow her work. She is a true inspiration to the creative field.

 An exhibition of Annie Atkins’ work on The Grand Budapest Hotel, Annie Atkins: A Brief Survey of Graphic Design from the Empire of Zubrowka (1932-1968), is at the Light House cinema in Dublin until March 24. Details here

See more of Annie Atkins’ work here