A Fictitious Country

Mendl’s [Detail]

On its release, I hugely enjoyed Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – inspired by the work of the equally excellent writer, Stefan Zweig – and I’ve enjoyed watching it numerous times ever since.

The story’s twists and turns and its wonderful characters had me captivated throughout.

One thing in particular that caught my eye throughout the film was the meticulous attention to detail paid to graphic design, courtesy of Annie Atkins, the film’s lead graphic designer. As Atkins puts it:

Before I worked on ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ the only emails I ever received were reminders about outstanding invoices, and now my inbox is swamped with questions about working in the art department.

I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Atkins at a conference I spoke at in 2015, and – thanks to the conference schedule – I ended up with a copy of Atkins’ Keynote presentation on my MacBook Pro, which I periodically revisit privately for the sheer pleasure of indulging in the wonderful fictional world Atkins’ graphic design conjured up.

Atkins’ work behind the scenes was responsible for building believability in the fictitious Alpine state – the Empire of Zubrowka – that lies at the heart of the film’s setting. As Atkins puts it:

A fictitious country needs all kinds of graphics: flags, banknotes, passports, street signs…. It’s impossible to imagine graphics like these. You have to do your research and you’ll find treasures that you couldn’t even have begun to sit down and draw until you saw them in front of your eyes.

If you’ve yet to see ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, I’d strongly urge you to rectify that and, if you have, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Atkins’ interview with Quartz, which projects a little light onto the process of creating a fictional world, inspired by fact.

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