Thursday 6th Oct 2016
The Pottermore Correspondent caught up with graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who have spent 16 years designing J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world for the screen.
Miraphora and Eduardo met while working on the graphic design for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Miraphora was a London graduate of The National Film School, and Eduardo had just moved to London from the small Brazilian town of Caxambu. Their camaraderie was instantaneous.
The pair worked together on all eight Harry Potter films, designing everything from the Marauder’s Map to the Daily Prophet, and used to joke about how one day they’d start a little studio together somewhere in central London.
By 2010, that studio was real. MinaLima headquarters in London is two bright rooms up a set of narrow stairs, covered floor-to-ceiling with their designs.
Miraphora and Eduardo – or ‘M’ and ‘E’ as they’re known around the office – are still inseparable. They sit opposite one another wherever they are, whether that’s in their studio or the enclave they’ve commandeered close to the set of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
When we meet for the first time, it’s in that cave-like office space in Leavesden. The room has been plastered with 1920s memorabilia. Miraphora and Eduardo are sitting at their desks, utterly surrounded by old typography books, film props, vintage posters and piles of discarded paper.
They’re no more than a metre away from each other; one easily within arm’s reach of the other’s work – which is convenient, given how often one will pick up a pencil then finish the other’s sketches.
‘We are basically two bodies and one brain,’ says Eduardo, with a wicked giggle.
‘Err, gross,’ says Miraphora.
‘Really though,’ he continues, ‘we can’t ever say one of us designed this thing and the other did that. We might say, “Oh can you finish this for me?” or just start drawing on the other’s work. We produce every design together. We’ve worked in this way for 16 years, and we’d like another 16 years of it!’
‘We’re like an old married couple,’ says Miraphora, and they truly are. Just as one is apt to finish the other’s design, they also finish each other’s sentences. There’s something magical about it, which makes them uniquely qualified to move from Harry Potter to Fantastic Beasts.
‘It’s like we never left the wizarding world,’ says Eduardo. ‘We love it. In the magical world, you can be a bit funny and silly.’
‘We sneak things in that make us laugh all the time,’ adds Miraphora.
‘Yes! I was just laughing at this,’ Eduardo says, holding up a copy of a 1920s wizarding newspaper created for Fantastic Beasts. ‘My own joke! I put a Culture section in the newspaper and I added the headline “No-Maj singer is a goblin,” because it made me laugh. I just love it.’
Every headline, every sentence, every letter is within their creative jurisdiction. The sheer scale of their work on Fantastic Beasts is astounding.
‘Our work includes signage, floor design, carpet design, packaging, posters, media, props,’ Miraphora tells me. ‘The signage can be painted or plastered onto the buildings on the New York set, or it can be on small engraved plaques. Then there are the props that J.K. Rowling wrote into the script, like Newt’s case, notepad and passport.
'And there are all the background things you think might be needed to tell the story. The Goldstein sisters live in a normal house in New York, but they’re doing wizard things. They might have wizarding packaging for their food, which you see very incidentally; they might have wizarding magazines. We’ve designed books from the school that they went to, but even we don’t know if they’ll be seen in the movie. We make them as part of that world, to imbue the scene.’
‘The wizards and witches are much more discreet in America,’ says Eduardo, with such authority you might almost forget we’re talking about fiction. ‘The relationship between Muggles, or No-Majs, and wizards is much worse there. So, we had to take that into our thoughts.’
M and E met with J.K. Rowling before shooting started. They needed to ask for certain details that nobody else on the planet would know. Things like Newt Scamander’s birthday, to make his passport accurate, or what other belongings he might have in his infinite case.
You can tell Miraphora and Eduardo relish the secrecy of the story as much as anyone. The way they speak about their work, it’s as though someone has let them loose in J.K. Rowling’s imagination and they can’t quite believe their luck.
‘It’s brilliant,’ says Miraphora, beaming. ‘She’s given us a bottomless pit of material. Working on things from her books, or her screenplay, is like a muscle you can keep exercising.’
‘We are so lucky,’ says Eduardo.
Spending time with MinaLima strips away their 16 years together. They’re in as much awe as they were on the day they first met. It will be wonderful to see what happens in their next 16 years together.