Inside MinaLima: the fantastic world of Harry Potter prop design

The graphic design studio which created the Potter spellbooks, newspapers, tickets and posters on their latest magical book

In Soho, not far from the location of Diagon Alley, the magical world of Harry Potter has carved out an intriguing legacy. The House of MinaLima gallery holds the work of the graphic design studio which created most of the props from the Harry Potter films including spellbooks, the Daily Prophet newspaper, tickets and posters. The Marauders Map covers the floor in the gallery’s exquisitely designed rooms. The House started as a pop-up in 2017 but looks here to stay – a second gallery has now opened in Japan.

MinaLima is named after cofounders Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. Mina graduated in Theatre Design from Central Saint Martins and entered the Potter universe in 2000, when the production designer she worked for was hired for the first big-screen adaptation of JK Rowling’s beloved books.

By the time the second film started production, Lima had moved to London after graduating from Brazil’s Pontifical Catholic University, and was put in touch with Mina, through a family friend, for work experience. “We’ve been together since then,” says Mina. “It was a symbiotic moment of realising we had the same aesthetic, the same sense of humour and approach to design.”

The two founded the MinaLima studio in 2009 and worked on all the Potter films, shaping the way the world saw the wizarding universe. Now they’re working on the Fantastic Beasts film series, as well as designing a new kind of magical book: exquisite, illustrated pop-up fairy tales. This month Pinocchio becomes the seventh book in the MinaLima book collection, on a list including Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

“We were tasked by Harper Collins roughly 10 years ago to do a celebration book of Harry Potter and blindly said yes,” explains Mina. The fairytales come from that. For each, they consider what a book would look like in the character’s world. Pinocchio has a whimsical wood theme, as though the pages were made in Geppetto’s workshop. There’s wood block on most pages and the folio numbers are decorated with little tools.

An integral part of the process is producing a white model – a book with blank pages that serves as a proof of concept to ensure all the moving parts function properly. “It’s a dextrous, 3D process”, says Mina. “You’re blocking out the flow of the story.” As for what goes in the book, Eduardo adds: “In Pinocchio, we could not miss that one moment he’s inside the shark!”

The MinaLima Classics edition of The Adventures of Pinocchio is published by Harper Design

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