Images provided by MinaLima
It has been 20 years since fans first were first spellbound by the first Harry Potter film, but it’s also been 20 years since many of the talented people who created that film first met.
This includes graphic design team Miraphora and Eduardo, who came together to create their studio MinaLima after working together on the Harry Potter films. From Daily Prophet newspaper covers to the infamous Marauder’s Map, the pair have designed and developed some of the most memorable Wizarding World pieces you can think of. Next year, the pair will release a book, "The Magic of MinaLima", showcasing some of their favourite memories, and continue to work on future Wizarding World projects. But before we go too far forward, let’s go back in time as the pair reminisce about the last two decades, in their own words.
Eduardo: I arrived in the UK from Brazil in April 2001 and I think I contacted Mira around May or June. She was doing graphics here in the UK, working for a “wizarding boy film”. At the time I had no idea what it was! So, I contacted Mira, explaining who I was and where I came from – we have a mutual friend – and a short time later she sent me a very lovely reply saying she’d just finished working on this Harry Potter film and she was starting the second. So, I went to Leavesden where the Harry Potter films were made to meet her just for a chat, and met Mira and set decorator Stephenie McMillan, and since then, we just didn’t stop talking. 20 years later, we are still joined to eachother! But that memory is so good because I was surprised that Mira replied to me. She was so kind and lovely.
Mira: That word “surprise” keeps coming up over the past 20 years. Looking back, you think, “Gosh, that was a surprise, getting the gift of eight films for the best franchise ever!” And it was a surprise to work with someone that you actually completely 150 million percent connect with. And then we set up our own studio, another surprise. At the end of the films in 2010, people would ask us if we were sad about them ending, because it was like a real era, and those eras only happen once you get to the end of them. But it was clear to us that this was just the beginning of a new chapter. And again, with that element of surprise: a MinaLima studio just happened! And then between the bookends of 2010 and 2021, we started growing a team of three people to 30 people... and becoming a business that’s a craft.
Eduardo: When we wrapped production on the last film, a few months’ later, we opened up MinaLima’s studio in Fitzrovia, London, our first little office. We thought the Wizarding World was done – but we didn’t know there was still going to be so much more. We had the opportunity to work for the theme park at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Parks & Resorts – and then another surprise – Fantastic Beasts came along!
Now we have a space in the new store, Harry Potter New York and we have our sister-shop in Osaka. There are still people now who ask us if we get bored working on Harry Potter, but that’s never the case because to our "surprise" – that’s definitely the right word! – every time it’s something completely new and completely different.
Mira: Getting to know the Harry Potter fans was a big part of our evolution. Once you know who your audience is, you start to have a conversation and a dialogue. It builds momentum, the more you understand what they want, they get excited, and it motivates you to do more. So, there’s a really lovely dialogue that we’ve built up with the fans. Had we never gone to that first fan convention; we would never have understood our place in the franchise. So, we took a different tangent and hopefully deliver meaningful work. I saw two girls in Slytherin robes the other day and just wanted to wind down my window and say something to them!
Eduardo: I remember until up to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we weren’t sure if there was going to be another film. But then all the books started becoming films. Looking back, now we have all the books printed, and we all know these stories, but at the time we didn’t. At the end of each book, we asked, what is behind that door? Then we go through that door into the next book. But you have to make that door beautifully. And with graphics, we had to make some sort of legacy.
Mira: As designers, it’s very natural now to be helped with technology. But on those first films I didn’t know how to use Photoshop!
Eduardo: On the first few Harry Potter films, we just had an old computer.
Mira: But more importantly, we just didn’t have the learning. I just had never learnt the technical things that I now know. And having learnt them on Harry Potter, I now do them. But if you ask any designer if you’ve improved over 20 years, you’d hope they’d say yes. Just by ‘doing doing doing’ every day. If you ask any collaborative partnership in design, or the arts, in any way, they’re always sharing, springing information, ideas, and energy between them. And those are the things much harder when you’re on your own. We’ve always said the sum of the parts is much greater than us as two individuals. Now we have a fantastic team and they help us to learn. Every day you’re learning a new bit of something – we never thought we’d be designing Harry Potter books for example! That’s coming completely full circle.
Eduardo: Now when young people come to us and say they want to do graphics because of us, what can you say?
Mira: Even if one person says that to you once, that’s pretty awesome.
Eduardo: That is the main reward.
Eduardo: Without doubt, the people we learnt the most from was production designer Stuart [Craig] and set decorator Stephenie [McMillan]. They were our Dumbledore and McGonagall. And in Leavesden, it was like Hogwarts, actually. You arrived there like me, brand new to this country, and brand new to creating graphics for film. Leavesden was kind of a school where loads of amazing people came and because of Harry Potter this was allowed to happen – and because there were so many films – people were learning on the job and improving. So, you have amazing painters and propmakers and costumes.
Eduardo: There were so many situations before smartphones that I wish we could’ve recorded while working on the films. I remember one very well: Helena Bonham Carter turning up in our office in full costume with the teeth, wig and everything, and she sat with us for hours just chatting about design and graphics. I remember it was hilarious – we laughed for two hours and she was asking us questions. So those moments were amazing. Alan Rickman walking around in full costume talking to everyone, and in full character, telling children to eat their greens in the canteen... Dumbledore with his beard in a bag... And seeing Emma, Rupert and Daniel coming to our office asking for help with their school art projects. We used to lend them scissors and stuff. So, it was an amazing family atmosphere. That was the No.1 thing about the Harry Potter films – we were between friends, and we were all thinking, let’s do the best we can to make these films better and better.
Mira: By coincidence, the first dabbling we had with the Wizarding World was Harry’s Hogwarts letter.
Eduardo: Mira had to be McGonagall and think how McGonagall would write that letter.
Mira: Gilderoy’s books! They were so tacky, but it was the first time we had to think: “how can a book convey the personality of the character?” That was a real opportunity to show his fraudulent character.
Eduardo: Those characters... him, Rita Skeeter, Umbridge... are so over the top and layered and rich so it was great designing graphics for them.
Eduardo: It’s the Marauder’s Map. It was a very layered piece of work because Alfonso Cuaron was very involved on the design. That was great. When you have that strong relationship with a director – we would talk directly with him – you can see it in the props. This film is also the first time we see Honeydukes, as well!
Eduardo: All the Quidditch props for the World Cup. Mira: Which A lot of which, you didn’t see! But it was a real endeavour.
Eduardo: The Daily Prophet: the film has a sequence of newspaper headlines and the film narrative is dark – so we needed to create something a little more serious.
Mira: The Potions Book and the props in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop.
Eduardo: There were loads of books, actually. Beedle the Bard, The Life and Lies of Dumbledore... and Hermione had an amazing bag full of books. We don’t see them in the film, but we designed those too!
Eduardo: Mira wrote an alphabet poster that Lily Potter makes for Harry to decorate his bedroom. It was a lovely A-Z with lots of picture drawings, it’s gorgeous.
Eduardo: We want to travel and see our space in the shop in New York, and celebrate with everyone in New York. We’ve only seen it online so far! We also want to see our home and friends in Osaka again!
Mira: None of us were prepared for the pandemic, but we designed two books and published two books during lockdown – and we worked on Fantastic Beasts 3! We moved buildings too. So, lots of things happened, we were on survival mode. But the best thing was seeing our team’s resilience and commitment to making things work, despite all the personal challenges, it was absolutely awe-inspiring to see how everyone stepped up.
Eduardo: As creatives, we do need to be next to each other to properly draw and talk – so that was a little bit of a challenge with our designers. But we can’t wait to all come back together.
Eduardo: I sometimes am still amazed. I come from a little town in the middle of Brazil and sometimes when I put that in relation to everything else I’m like, “oh my god, I’m working on this big franchise that everyone knows all over the world – even people in my home town!” – When you have a dream and you put all your energy into it, sometimes I say to myself, “Well done, me.”
MinaLima will be revealing future projects, including their upcoming book "The Magic of MinaLima", on their official website.