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Sponsored by Adobe MAX Conference 2018

Coming from an exceptionally creative home, raised by designers, Annie took quickly to a life in graphic design. Perhaps due in part to her artistic upbringing, she has since established herself as a prominent graphic designer for Academy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated films, such as Bridge of Spies and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

On her entry into a career in design for film she says, “I studied at Ravensbourne in London, then worked in advertising for a few years in Reykjavik before I made the jump to filmmaking in Dublin, Ireland. My first film job was on the set of the TV series The Tudors, back in 2007.” Her interest in graphic design not only for film, but also for games, stems from her love for stories. She says making graphic pieces for stories is “like living in a world of make-believe. I love the drama of it all—everything is a slightly heightened version of itself. There's room for fun in every piece you have to create.”

Annie’s work, even within the graphic design community, is quite unique (and not only because she’s worked with Steven Spielberg and Wes Anderson, though the film directors do play a large part in her process.) In beginning to discuss her creative approach, she says, “I work for the director, the production designer, the prop master, and the set decorator – so there are a lot of people to please. We all stick to the same script, but it can be tricky keeping everything in the same world, genre, period, or place. It's a fine balance, and there are always lots of revisions made until it gets to a place that the director's happy with.” That said, some things do remain consistent regardless of the details: “We never start any piece of design with a blank page, it always comes from something real, even if the piece we're creating is for a fantasy adventure or a children's animation. We look at a lot of reference material.”

Looking at her past work, Annie says, “I'm incredibly proud of the work we created for The Grand Budapest Hotel, because the film really shone a light on graphic design in film. It felt like a lot of people hadn't even realized this career existed until they saw that movie.” And realize, they did, especially after seeing all of the incredibly striking design work that brought to life Anderson’s highly recognizable aesthetic, from the pink Mendl’s bakery boxes, to the film’s storefronts, to details as small as telegram papers. Annie’s work with Anderson on The Grand Budapest Hotel exposed the world to the film design industry, but it didn’t end there. Annie also went on to work on Isle of Dogs, released in 2018, continuing her partnership with Anderson and diving into a new corner of the industry: stop-motion filmmaking. On her experience, she says: “There is so much incredible attention to detail in this miniature world, you can really get your teeth into it. I was pregnant with my little boy when I started work on that movie, and by the time it was released, he was old enough to come to the cinema and watch it with us—that just shows how long the stop-motion animation process takes!”

Annie is currently enjoying working on branding and commercial content, though she’s particular about the partnerships she chooses since this area is not her specialty. To this point, she says, “I like to take any brand that feels a bit stiff and inject some fun into it. I'm finding that certain brands are even coming to me because they want to work with someone who's going to treat their product like a character in a movie.” On future work, she says, “I’d also love to do a Tim Burton movie.” Feel free to give her a call, Tim!

In her limited free time, Annie is very focused on her family, but one professional thing she does for herself (and is loving) is her weekend workshops: “Once a month, designers and students from around the world come to my studio in Dublin, and I show them how they can translate their existing design skills to filmmaking. Everyone is so enthusiastic. One of the downsides of working in film is that the crews are always so jaded by it all (I think from sheer exhaustion!) so to have a studio of people who are genuinely excited by it really breathes life back in to it for me again.” (To readers interested in attending, keep an eye out for upcoming workshops in Los Angeles in 2019.) Annie likes to end her workshops with a piece of advice she received at the start of her career, which is that the design industry can feel like you have to know somebody to get a foot in the door, but “the easiest way to get to know someone is to introduce yourself to them. Make your best work, off your own back, at home, at night, then introduce yourself to the right person, and show them exactly what you're capable of.”

Speaking of workshops, Annie will be a first-time host at this year’s Adobe MAX Conference 2018. She plans to serve up some behind-the-scenes content from films she’s worked on with a big side of enthusiasm. Annie hopes that attendees walk away from her session having seen her work from all angles: the good stuff as well as some of the mistakes she’s made along the way because, as she says, “That's always the most fun part of anything, really, isn't it? Where it all went wrong...”

Check out more of Annie’s work on her website and her Instagram page, and if you’re interested in attending her session at Adobe MAX, get registered here.

Communication Arts readers save $400 on MAX registration using code M18PCA.

Annie Atkins specializes in graphic design for filmmaking. As well as creating contemporary artwork for movie posters, she also designs and makes any graphic pieces outlined by a period film script, like prison escape maps, telegrams, and fake love letters. Annie has designed the graphics for three Oscar-nominated films: the animated feature The Boxtrolls, Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, and Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel—which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Production Design. Her most recent work can be seen in Anderson’s stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs. Originally from Snowdonia in Wales, Annie has been based in Dublin, Ireland since 2007, which she now considers her home.

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