Talk about a dream job. "I remember trying to sound really professional and calm on the phone, but I was actually doing cartwheels around the room," recalls graphic designer Annie Atkins of the moment she was tapped to work with Wes Anderson on The Grand Budapest Hotel. As lead graphic designer for this visual feast of a film, Annie was responsible for every single graphic element, large and small, from the hotel lobby signage to the to-die-for Mendl's packaging to the documents and passports used by the characters. She designed an entire currency for the made up Eastern European country where the film takes place. She branded the official hotel letterhead and designed the stunning cologne bottles that feature prominently throughout. Every bit of text seen in this typographically heavy film was imagined and created by Annie, from scratch.
The labour intensive assignment meant spending 6 months over winter with the cast and crew in a small town on the border of Germany and Poland, where a decrepit old department store was transformed and brought back to life as the Grand Budapest Hotel. Annie's office was on the top floor of the "hotel", and she likened the experience to "being in a Wes Anderson film. Snow everywhere and Bill Murray wandering around". Basically our dream work-environment. Maybe minus the snow.
The design team took their cues from the style of the era, seamlessly blending it with Wes's signature look and feel, to produce the dazzling world of rich colours and highly stylized typography we've come to expect from a Wes Anderson film. According to Atkins, the team went to painstaking measures to create a historically authentic world. If something was made by hand back then, it needed to be made by hand now. Documents were typed and re typed on typewriters. Letters were hand written and packaging was hand painted. "Sometimes we'd do 20 versions of an item before Wes was ready to shoot it."
Their meticulous attention to detail clearly paid off, as the result is probably the most visually stunning of Wes's worlds to date. And we're sure it can't hurt to have "lead graphic designer for a Wes Anderson project" on your resume. Our only question is, where do you go from there?
If you've not seen it yet, run, don't walk. And expect to go home dreaming of pastry packaging.