'Even Imagination dosen't compare to our real life design history'
Throughout my time at university, my eyes have been opened towards careers I never knew existed, before coming here to study illustration. Upon my arrival into class last September, the only thing I had ever wanted to be in life was an illustrator for children's books, but in a matter of months, this dream had been completely altered by sudden realisation that there was a whole world of careers out there, which interested me perhaps even more than designing work for children.
One such career is design for film, and in particular, designing the graphics of film. Even though these artists works play such a key role in making our viewing experience feel more realistic, little appreciation is given for what they do, because of how short a time their work is in shot. It can be as little as three seconds of watching an actor turn the page of a newspaper they've designed, or a small moment captured where one of the performers is holding a letter these incredible artists have made, often by hand. Of all the people who work within this career, Annie Atkins is one of the most well-known, in the sense people remember what her work looked like, even after the camera has panned away.
Working at first within her homeland of Wales, nowadays Annie works across the globe on films including The grand Budapest hotel, The bridge of spies and The box trolls, to name but a few. On each and every film she has worked upon, her dedication to detail is transparently obvious, and for me, I most respect the sensitivity with which she creates all of her pieces. When designing something for a historical/period script, I think its very easy for artists to cut corners, and use more modern techniques to get things made more efficiently. However, this usage of modern technology is -for me- a sign of disrespect to the original artists who crafted those works your now finding corners to cut upon.
In a speech she gave at a world design fair, Annie also discussed the above issues with not even acknowledging how artists made those pieces they're now trying to recreate. Like her, I was worried about how this causes the loss of countless practices as people figure out how to get the same look for a quicker timeframe. The worst sufferers of this need for speed are the handmade crafts she herself is extremely proficient at- calligraphy, hand-rendered fonts, traditional print methods. For both herself and me, in not making those items exactly the same way as the were made at the very point the film/theatre performance is working within, the design looses that sense of authenticity and ruins the audiences emersion/belief when a piece of graphics flashes up that looks poorly rendered.
Aside from this, Annie has also come to mean a lot to me, because she has been a big source of inspiration for me, regarding a project I am currently doing. Having been asked to research the history and story of NASA due to it being Apollo 11s 50th anniversary soon, I decided to make a magazine which celebrated the lost female heroes of the NASA programme. In such a masculine history as NASA possesses, it was so sad for me to discover how little recognition the female astronauts receive, for achieving equally incredible feats of discovery in the face of the unknown, and in light of this, I wanted to bring their stories back to our century.
To do this, I'm using the format of a magazine which stopped producing during the early 1970s, called 'Life.' Much like publications including Time or Hello, Life magazine was about capturing the current moods and events of the nation, and in America, it was a major source of information for the public, regarding world-changing events and also, finding out about the people behind them. Life was publishing during the time Apollo 11 made it to the moon, and so was a big part of NASA forming such popularity amongst the public. Even Christa McAuliffe (the first civilian ever to be invited into a space programme) mentioned how she had a copy of the moon landing at home, and this story was not unique to her alone- millions of people grew up with this publication arriving on their doormats, and remembered it being an amazing opportunity, to see what was happening beyond the boarders of your hometown.
I am now in the process of publishing my own interpretation of Life magazine, and so am continually trying to reference back to Annie's teachings, when recreating some of the formats for my own illustrations. Although a lot of these works are done digitally (which is something I know the original designers would not have had) I am doing my best to ensure the look and feel of this magazine is being retained, so that the magic described above is still present, almost fifty years after life stopped publishing its articles. The history retained by these publications is something I am always aware of, so whenever I use them as a background to my own works, I avoid manipulating them to such a degree that you cannot see the original artists intentions. Annie herself also does this a lot in her own creations- often, she will (like me) reference original examples of design work at the time she is exploring, and then build off of them to make it suit the current project. This is what I also am doing. I hope above all else that this will show that I am not trying to hide their historically influential input.
It is therefore thanks to artists like Annie, that I feel I learnt such respect. Her consistent enforcement that to understand our present we must know our past is a continual source of inspiration, and I am amazed she then follows through with these teachings each and every time she begins work on a project. Although I don't know yet if her career is something I may one day pursue, it's certainly given me a taste of just what it could be like, if one day I follow her lead.