MinaLima studio is well known for Harry Potter fans around the world. Founded in 2009 by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the duo worked together designing the props in the Harry Potter films until they decided to set up their own design studio to create, in their own words, “distinctive and unconventional design and illustration for the entertainment and publishing industries.” But that was not the end of their relationship with Harry Potter, which had been going on for several films, it was quite the opposite. After finishing with the film series, they worked on all the graphic elements for the Universal Theme Parks, as well as companion books for the films and other marketing materials. In 2015 they returned to the Wizarding World for Fantastic Beasts, designing again the props for the new stories about Newt Scamander and his allies.
But their latest adventure is not film related. Going back to the roots, MinaLima (which has a great story of creating beautiful books) started to publish the Harry Potter novels in a new original and never-seen-before format. With original illustrations and interactive papercraft features, it was impossible for the fans not to love the books. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 2020, while the new edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published a few weeks ago. We had the privilege of being able to talk with this fantastic duo about their latest creation.
How do you approach the design of these books and how many people are involved in them?
Eduardo: We may all be familiar with the story of this boy-wizard given our twenty-year background in the Wizarding World but, nonetheless, we begin by reading each book again thoroughly. I make a book map where I make a note of all the interesting, quirky and intriguing events in the story and decide which moments should be conveyed through small spot illustrations or large full-page illustrations and which should become interactive elements. At this point, Mira and I have a good idea of the overall creative direction in mind and Mira puts our ideas down on paper by roughly sketching the characters and locations.
Miraphora: Our fantastic team then picks these up and draws the illustrations in more detail. They also begin crafting all the paper engineered interactive elements. We had a core team of seven – including us! – working on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets but at one point or another every witch and wizard at MinaLima gets their quills – or other tools! – out and gets involved in some way, from illustrations to layout design, from marketing to showing visitors the book in our four galleries or online.
Do you have limits in what you can do in the books (mostly in terms of what is physically possible to do in popup books)? Did you have any ideas that were too hard to implement and had to be discarded?
Miraphora: Creating this type of books on a commercial scale is actually quite challenging. There are lots of little details we need to pay attention to. The flow and number of pages need to be even. For example, we need to make sure all the illustrations and interactives are evenly spread out – making one section of the book very interactive-heavy would create an imbalance. Tempting though it may be, we also can’t have endless double-page spreads of illustrations – after all, there is a story that needs to be read here, too!
Eduardo: We are also working within certain budgetary and manufacturing constraints, and we have to remember that this book needs to be produced in units of hundreds of thousands. Occasionally we have to let go of an idea for an interactive element because it is too complex to create for such a large print run.
Are there any illustrations that for any reason did not make the final cut?
Eduardo: We always create far more than we need – it is a habit from our days on the film set! – or we change our minds about a particular approach so inevitably there are designs that are cut. Shall we release a book equivalent of extra film scenes?
Do you think your process will change with the next books that are bigger, like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Miraphora: As with the Harry Potter films, we are being commissioned to work on one book at a time so that will be a bridge – possibly a big bridge! – that we will cross when we get to it. We would love to hear your readers’ thoughts on how they think we should approach the longer books, if we are commissioned to illustrate them!
Some details change in some countries, like the little H of Hogwarts becoming P in French for Poudlard. Do you work together with foreign publishers for this? Do you have this in mind when making the designs?
Eduardo: Our foremost consideration is to stay loyal to the text, which in this case is the US editions of the Harry Potter books because our publisher-client is Scholastic. We then create additional designs, as needed, for example we produced a number of different Crest letters.
I personally love that most of the illustrations (mainly characters) are really different from their film counterparts. Was this on purpose and why did you decide to do it like that?
Miraphora: Yes, absolutely! We were invited to reinvent this magical story after 20 years of working in different realms of the Wizarding World so this was a dream commission. For us, as designers – and you, as readers – it is far more interesting to create something new rather than more of the same.
Eduardo: Having worked on the film where we work alongside a team and the final decisions about what makes the cut are made by the producers, here was our opportunity to take full creative control and introduce readers to characters and locations they might not have met in the films – all presented with a generous dose of the MinaLima’s colourful playfulness!
What was the most difficult inside element to design? And what was the most fun?
Miraphora: The most challenging part is creating the characters because they must feel familiar – like old friends – and be imbued with their personalities without mirroring the faces we already know so well.
Eduardo: The most fun part is bringing to life spaces that weren’t shown in the film, like the Slytherin common room, or reimagining places where we knew we could get lost in the details, like the Hogwarts Library. And, of course, hiding some easter eggs in the book!
Remember you can visit the MinaLima website and buy your copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They are both signed by Miraphora and Eduardo and they do worlwide shipping.