Twenty Years in Graphic Design: The Magic Of MinaLima

After twenty years of working together, graphic design duo Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (otherwise known as MinaLima) announce The Magic of MinaLima and reflect on their work on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films franchise and beyond, looking ahead to their next twenty years of business in an ever-growing industry.

The Magic of MinaLima will publish under HarperCollins in 2022. The book charts the duo’s experiences working on the Wizarding World franchise, having designed iconic visual props for the Harry Potter films, such as the Marauder’s Map, the Black Family Tapestry, all issues of The Daily Prophet, and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Letter, to name just a few. Twenty years have “flown by”, says Mina. From meeting on set in 2002 – when Lima moved back to London from Brazil, and started as an intern on the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“It felt serendipitous, almost, that the position of assistant then became available after Eduardo having worked as an intern for a few months – we never had to find a way, it was meant to be!” says Mina on the beginning of their partnership. “It’s been most critical along the way that at every juncture, we’ve pretty much wanted the same thing – a bit like in a marriage, you know. At some point Eduardo was like, ‘I think we should try retail’, and after a few days I was like ‘Okay, that feels right’. Every challenge or question that came along, like our first trip to America to see if we could get other work, it all worked out and pushed us to the next thing together.”

Peppered throughout their years working on the Harry Potter franchise were opportunities to work on other film projects. Working together on The Imitation Game, A Good Woman, The Legend of Tarzan and Flyboys, Mina worked solo on other film projects, such as The Golden Compass and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, whilst Lima worked on City of Ember and Gambit. These first ten years, however, always saw the duo reconvening back at their Leavesden office for the Harry Potter films.

“The first 10 years were more dedicated to the Harry Potter films, but punctuated with the other films that we’ve done,” Lima explains. “During those years at our office in Leavesden, we would close the doors between films and have to go and sort of seek out work elsewhere – it was like leaving home for a few months!”

As MinaLima grew as a business in their early days, Mina says that there was always an inkling that the duo would want to branch out of the Wizarding World franchise, and that setting up their own studio in 2009 enabled them to experiment and take on other kinds of work, taking on just one assistant initially.

“Sometimes when you’re putting a business first it means you don’t have any money, or you can’t afford to go on holiday, or take time off. There’s all these other things that you have to give up, but I think we were unusually aligned in our motivation to get things done.” says Mina on the importance of their dedication to working in partnership. “[Setting up the studio] has often taken us away from film, which was really nice because then it enabled us to think outside of our own box – I don’t think we would have ever had published books, for instance – we’d never set out to be book designers.”

Their first venture outside of Harry Potter was their solo project, Collective Nouns – a collection of prints and merchandise featuring original artwork. The pair started to delve into retail and printing, as well as selling licensed prints and merchandise featuring their works from the Wizarding World franchise. This later enabled the duo to move into book design, publishing interactive illustrated editions of classic stories in their Illustrated Classics collection of books, prints and merchandise with HarperCollins.

“Our first project, Collective Nouns, hasn’t necessarily been properly shared with the world, but I think that it gave us the confidence to kind of go, ‘What would it be like if our identity wasn’t valued through the Wizarding World – do we have another identity?’, Mina says on the importance of this project.

“We were still working on the last [Harry Potter] film when we started talking to these friends of mine about doing a project together that was not with a client, but where we were the client and the creator. It was quite liberating to do something that was ours and a bit of a risk because you haven’t got someone paying you to do it. But in a funny way, it paved the way to this studio, this gallery, and also paved the way to invest in a printing facility. All our Harry Potter prints happened because we started with this project where we thought, ‘What’s it like to have a large format printer and a website to sell them?’. That was the beginning of the process of us moving into retail and moving into prints and our own projects. In a very rudimentary way, we sort of felt our way around in the dark about how to have a small business selling limited edition prints. 

“Then the next step was, ‘What would it be like if we use that sort of infrastructure to do the Harry Potter stuff?’, so we always wanted the two worlds of MinaLima to run in parallel. Our favourite thing is when people buy both our Wizarding World work, and our MinaLima work – then it’s like they’re buying into our little language.”

Asked whether they’ve seen a shift in the graphic design industry in their twenty years of work, both Mira and Eduardo say that there have been a hugely noticeable growth in the industry:

“Certainly there’s many more graphic designers doing work specifically for film, but also I think an awareness of the industry has grown, too.” says Mina on the growing interest in graphic design. “I think the [Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter] was brilliant as well at showing people what the craft of filmmaking is. People were suddenly beginning to see through the internet and through Leavesden that graphic design and filmmaking was a career option.”

Lima also explains that Harry Potter played a huge part in this growth, and contributed to changes in perception of the film industry. “Harry Potter was such an important film for the U.K. film business because during the economic crash in 2008-2009, it was hard, but working on Harry Potter, we were kind of safe, because we had that guaranteed job to come back to as artists. But what made the industry stronger was the introduction of post-production visual effects.”

“And there would never be a graphics department with a team before,” Mina added. “When we started there was a list of maybe a handful of people working in graphics. It took a while for producers to realise that graphic design on a film was a role that needed to be driven by one or two people.”

The industry moved from a handful of graphic designers being on a list of those in the industry when Lima first started out, to now having The Graphics Union; a list of over 400 people working in their craft. “Nobody can find graphic designers anymore, because we’re all busy!” laughs Lima.

There’s a sense of things coming together in a serendipitous manner for MinaLima. Thinking ahead to the next twenty years, Mira and Eduardo express their eagerness to continue to try new approaches to design and to continue to push their own boundaries. From their ambitions to pave the way in experiential design and retail, to their desire to create their own immersive stories and worlds, their next twenty years will see them come full circle in collaborating with other creatives.

Equipped with their experiences working as designers with visual effects, set design and prop making departments on the Wizarding World films, the duo will step into a new era not as a duo, but with a team behind them, after setting the foundations of their now international business. MinaLima is backed by a dedicated studio, partners working on design and production in filmmaking, theme parks and events at MinaLima Los Angeles, and House of MinaLima galleries showcasing their work and merchandise in London, Osaka, and the newly opened House of MinaLima at the Harry Potter flagship megastore in New York City. The newly designed MinaLima.com website is being released in several languages, and the duo has sold over half a million copies of their Illustrated Classics series.

Their next goal, aside from publishing The Magic of MinaLima, will focus on a new exhibition paving the way for experiential design.

The project will launch in Europe, and will take the Illustrated Classics work into an immersive exhibition environment, using state-of-the-art technology to create an interactive, experimental space where design takes centre stage.

“I think that’s naturally the next step in this project,” Lima explains. “We have the books, but then being able to physically bring people inside the books, and use the kinds of technology available today to help people do that – that’s another way of helping us discover how to open up these worlds to more people.”

“Even the books were a departure from our comfort zone, so now it’s about staying in that area – stepping out into the water and not quite being able to touch the sand,” Mina continued. “I think it’s important as a creative studio to always have that. We’ve never created an exhibition from scratch before, but it’s the same language – it’s about making people feel involved emotionally with the work rather than logically.”

Lima also explains their ambition to create their own stories and worlds in future:

“The foundation of having Harry Potter has been amazing, and getting to interact with fans and grow our business and learn more about how to feed people’s imagination. That’s why now we feel confident that we can go on to create these immersive experiences, and create our own stories as well. Because now we know who our people are, and we know what we know now and can focus on a new era – another 20 years!”

After opening a brand new House of MinaLima on the historic Wardour Street in London, moving from their initial first space on Greek Street, Mina says that the move to a new headquarters combining their studio, shop and gallery in one space has opened up doors for them and made the team feel ready for the future of the business:

“The next step is to let go, delegate, and be confident enough in our work and to know we’ve reached a stage in this business where we can experiment and trial new things. To do an immersive exhibition, for instance, it’s so out of our realm of knowledge that we will have to let go and have confidence in the fact that the ideas and central themes are ours, but then other people and collaborators will bring in tech knowledge to bring it to life.

“By letting go in that way then that frees up space for us to have these ideas that we’ve talking about, our own stories. I think the first 10 years was kind of paying the bills through our craft, whereas now hopefully our art and craft has its own value so we can kind of hand the baby over to make space for other things. 

“This new building has transformed us, I think. We can have more people in it, we can behave more professionally, and it doesn’t feel like there was so many boundaries around knowledge or space or money.”

At the heart of MinaLima is the team pushing the business to new heights. Both Mira and Eduardo express their gratitude for anybody who has collaborated or worked with them, stressing that MinaLima is not simply their work, but a “sum of the parts”:

“I’ve often mentioned that there’s a sense of this being a sum of the parts – there’s Eduardo, there’s Mira, then there’s MinaLima – none of this would exist without it.” Mina explains, “It’s like the outcome of the past twenty years is the product of the chemical reaction of all those things together. It’s the sum of the parts from a business point of view, too. We’ve gone from being two separate freelancers, to having a studio with one assistant, to now having two businesses, galleries internationally and a real wholesale production with a cohort of people working for us to keep this thing going.”

Look out for The Magic of MinaLima in 2022, and visit MinaLima.com to find out more about their work, and keep up with their next twenty years of magic!

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