graphic design in movies

The Grand Budapest Hotel -
Design & Storytelling

For a class in Motion Graphics I had an assignment to watch 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'.
Part of the assignment was to analyse the visual storytelling but also the design of the movie.
the photo is used for educational purpose, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'; Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Productions
Graphic Design for film consists in designing what appears in the movie like graphic props and graphic set pieces, the things that the actors are interacting with on set. Anything with calligraphy, lettering, pattern, letters, anything made out of paper, could be something very simple like tiny handwritten note, or something complicated as a newspaper.
Before this assignment it didn't occur to me that there are graphic designers working in the movie industry making props. One possible reason is that I haven't seen enough movies. Another one - graphic design is almost invisible when being part of movies, or said in another way, it is a natural part of the story, it is not part of it. However, in 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' the design is central.

I knew the film was praised, and won a few oscars in 2014 but up until now I haven't watched any movie by the American director Wes Anderson. I was very surprised with the richness of the story, the production and the complexity behind the execution of this movie.
Wes Anderson is known for his unique visual aesthetic and narrative, every detail in his movies adds up to the story. This movie is all about design where every frame is a perfectly symmetrical painting.

About the Design

In The Grand Budapest Hotel the design is crucial, it appears in almost every scene as small signs, a newspaper magazine, a note, a map… It is like a guideline. The responsible graphic designer is Annie Atkins. She worked together with a small team, & Adam Stockhausen for the production of all materials that you see on the set made (books, newspapers, signs, letters, writings, passports, maps, signs, names, packaging of Mendl's.)

The way to design for film is by looking for references from real events, people, places. On the set the designer has a responsibility to language, nobody is watching out for your mistakes. It is advisable to double-check everything.

I think this applies to everything, not just to design on Set.

You can listen to Annie's talk here, read about her here and follow her on Instagram for more inspiration. Some other movies she worked for are Joker, Bridge of Spies, Isle of Dogs, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch, West Side Story.

Visual Storytelling

The story is separated in 4 timelines starting from the most present days going back to 1930s in the imaginary Republic of Zubrowka. Each timeline is marked by its own color palette and follows the story of a character. It is told as a story within a story, the more they go back, the more the past seems idealised.
The Timeline
Republica Zubrowka, present
1st Timeline:
Beginning of movies starts in the cemeterary where a girl goes to commemorate the author of the book 'The grand Budapest Hotel'.
Author of the Book, 1985
2nd Timeline:
Author of the book.
Author's Memories, 1968
3rd Timeline:
How the author met the owner of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel',called Zero, in 1968.
Youth of Zero, 1932
4th Timeline:
Through the eyes of Zero we learn about his youthful years in the hotel where he worked as a lobby boy for M.Gustave, the first owner, this is where he met Agatha, the love of his life.
The movie explores themes like tragedy, war, fascism, nostalgia, friendship, loyalty, and love.

Regarding the photography, the wide-angle lens combined with symmetrical center framed shots, and the use of straight lines, help organise the symmetry, and create a movement that directs our eyes in the scenes.

There is a sense of forced perspective, as if we are looking at something that has the illusion of depth rather than actually possessing it, this adds to the feeling of theatricality, extensive tracking shots display. In each of the 4 timelines the temperature of color is different, this reinforces the feeling of a peculiar Anderson universe.
Have you seen this movie? What are your thoughts about it? Have you noticed the typography, the design? Have you seen other movies by Wes Anderson? I would be happy to hear your opinion and talk about this more. Don't be shy, send me a message!
Coming up next: Graphic Design in Harry Potter Universe
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photos made by during the visit ; ; ;;