10.04.22
Dana Arnett + Kevin Bethune | Audio

S10E5: Annie Atkins


Annie Atkins is a graphic props designer for film and television. She has designed the graphic props for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch, among other award winning shows and movies.

Recently, she published Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking. She spoke about motivations behind writing about her extensive work:
It's such an invisible art form once it's in a movie because hardly anything we make is actually seen. So it was really wonderful to be able to write in detail about some props that had never really got a close up in a movie but had been integral somehow to the production…And also just bringing the subject in front of the eyes of people who had maybe not considered it as a career before, which is always really exciting because I think a lot of young graphic designers like myself, when I graduated, we just kind of naturally go towards advertising and branding and we don't really consider a lot of other graphic design forms. So it's really great to be able to show off the subjects to people who might not have considered it a career.

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TRANSCRIPT

Kevin Bethune
Welcome to The Design of Business,

Dana Arnett
The Business of Design.

Kevin Bethune
Where we talk with leaders in their fields,

Dana Arnett
About how innovation, access, and curiosity are redesigning their worlds. I'm Dana Arnett.

Kevin Bethune
And I'm Kevin Bethune.

Dana Arnett
This episode of The Design of Business | The Business of Design is brought to you by Morningstar.

Kevin Bethune
People don't just want financial information. They need to be able to understand it and use it. At Morningstar, great design transforms the way investors interact with financial data deeper insights, more personalized strategies, broader definitions of success. Start your journey at Morningstar.com.

Dana Arnett
On today's episode: pastry boxes, prop production, and the cutting room floor.

Annie Atkins
I'm convinced that our imaginations can never compare to the collective imagination of all the designers and craftspeople who've come before us.

Kevin Bethune
Annie Atkins specializes in graphic design for film making. She designed the graphic props for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch. And most recently, she worked on Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, among other Hollywood films.

Dana Arnett
Annie is also the author of Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking. Annie, welcome.

Kevin Bethune
Annie, welcome to the podcast.

Annie Atkins
Hi. Thank you for that lovely introduction.

Kevin Bethune
Actually, Annie, we met after I sort of tagged along with Dana at a post-AIGA conference dinner several years ago with the three of us, as well as Michael Bierut, Roman Mars from 99% Invisible was there — and honestly, sitting across the table from you, I felt your brilliance then, but I'm so amazed at the brilliant work that you've achieved since I met you. But let's not jump ahead just yet. Your parents were in the arts and graphic design. And were there any anecdotes that described their influence on you as you were entertaining the idea of what you wanted to do in your life?

Annie Atkins
Oh, gosh, yeah, absolutely. First of all, I should say that dinner after the AIGA events few years ago, that was that was a great night like it was really — do you know what, it was really something else to present my film work at that event. It was fantastic. But yes, my parents were both artists. My dad was a graphic designer and my mom was an illustrator. And they ran a small design business in in rural North Wales, in Snowdonia in our little village growing up. And they were yeah, they were always encouraging me to get into the arts and I mean my mum's whole thing was that all art and all drawing was just practice and you just had to practice every day. And she drew every single day. She, she was always drawing. She was sketching me and my brother when we were kids, our cats, our dog, my father. Yeah, she was constantly drawing. I'm not an illustrator. I'm often mistaken for an illustrator, but I actually never really got anywhere with illustration. Graphic design was always much more my cup of tea. I was always much better at arranging type on a page than I was at trying to depict the human form with a pencil. Yeah, that was definitely more my strength.

Dana Arnett
Yeah. And I can imagine because KB and I also had parents that gave us- they weren't designers, but they gave us sketchbooks and encouraged us to explore our artistic calling. And I know at some point then what your parents did maybe rubbed off on you. You got a, I think, a traditional graphic design degree in college. And then out of college, I think you went straight into the advertising world. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the professional field?

Annie Atkins
Well, yeah, when I was studying graphic design, it was called visual information design, the degree that I did, but it was basically graphic design. And when I was studying it, you know, we were all really pushed towards advertising. I suppose that's just where all the all the work was. This was around the turn of the millennium, 2003, I think, I graduated. And I went to Reykjavik in Iceland because I wanted to go off on an adventure and things were booming there and the art agencies were hiring a lot of people and I got hired. But I have to say I was not good at advertising design, especially in a Nordic country. I mean, the style was very, very beautiful, very sparse, very minimal, a lot of beautiful, muted tones, beautiful digital typography, perfect kerning, a lot of white space. And, you know, it's just not me. I think after a while I learned to imitate it quite well. But the background that I came from my parents being like, you know, my dad was a graphic designer in the seventies. Like he did a lot of hands on graphic design. My mum was an illustrator with paints. We used a lot of tactile materials. My dad was also a potter and a photographer, and I think I just really wanted or needed to use those tactile materials again. I'm just I'm naturally quite a I'm a little bit of a messy designer, maybe at times in a way. And there was no room for that kind of messy, tactile feel back then. I mean, in recent years hand lettering, sign painting, you know, it's all really enjoying a lot of popularity again. But 20 years ago, around the turn of the millennium, that was not the style at all. So, yeah, I just I just I never felt like I was really very good at it. And I think for that reason, I didn't really enjoy it. And I'm not sure. I'm not sure what you know. Can you enjoy something that you're not good at? Can you be good at something you don't enjoy? I don't know. Which is the chicken? Which is the egg. But I decided to leave and I decided that I would go to film school instead and learn how to be some kind of filmmaker.

Dana Arnett
Yeah. And that interesting moment, I guess, that pivot towards film, did that actually did your new degree or did your new training specifically encompass graphic prop design?

Annie Atkins
The filmmaking degree that I went onto in my late twenties then was a master's in film production. So it was very, very broad. Like we were doing screenwriting, we were learning camera operation, lighting a set, designing a set, directing, and I had like turned my back on design. I thought I was going to I thought I was no good as a designer, you know. And then when I got to film school, this whole new world of film of design opened up to me, and that was production design. So we were designing sets. Like one of the sets we had to design for one of our student films was the detective's office, you know, like a, like a kind of 1950s detective's office. And I remember the thing that I really loved doing was putting the lettering on the glass door, right? And I mean, there weren't many graphic pieces of graphic design that we were making for these sets, but that was one of them. A visiting lecturer came to us who was designing The Tudors, which was a TV show we made here in Ireland about 15 years ago, and he came in to teach a module with us, and it was him who explained this whole world of graphic design for filmmaking to me. And it really clicked. Then I was like, Oh yeah, I love putting lettering on glass doors. Like, that's like my calling. So then things started to make sense then, yeah.

Dana Arnett
What a great coincidence.

Annie Atkins
Yeah, I remember the tutor, you know, our head tutor I remember on the very first day of that filmmaking course, him saying to us, How many of you here want to direct? And every single one of us put our hands up. And he said, I guarantee you, by the end of this year, only a handful of those hands will be left up because there are so many areas of filmmaking that are so exciting and so interesting, and each of you is going to find your own path within it. And we didn't believe him, but he was right, you know, because we didn't really understand what the roles were. You know, we thought that if you wanted to make a film, you had to direct a film. We didn't understand that there were so many other crafts involved.

Kevin Bethune
Well clearly you've carved an amazing path for yourself. And from your impressive high IMDB credit list, we could talk about so many things, but something that really struck me looking at your work was the importance of creating an all encompassing world. And so what captivates your attention to want to participate in the building of certain worlds versus others?

Annie Atkins
Oh, I mean, for me, I really love period filmmaking. So anything I mean, what constitutes period filmmaking? I would say anything, gosh, can I say anything pre millennium is is the nineties period filmmaking now? Oh,.

Kevin Bethune
Absolutely.

Annie Atkins
I think it probably is actually. I'm sad to say. But have I ever done anything as as contemporary as the nineties? I don't think so. I don't think I've done 19- Oh, I did. I did! I did some work on a film set in 1994. It was an Ang Lee film. And I found that really tricky actually, because at that point the nineties hadn't hadn't really been cataloged yet, so it was difficult to find reference material to copy. And I just had to try and remember what it looked like, which was a bit odd. But usually, usually the kind of movies I take on would be mid-century or earlier. So I've done a few mid-century things. I've done a couple of like Victorian England things, which I love, by the way, I absolutely love Victorian London. It's such a great time and place to design for. And then when I first started out, I did a lot of like really like ye olde stuff, like Tudor stuff, medieval stuff, King Arthur — is that, is that a real period, no I don't think so but you know it's it's very old. So I think I think I really take things on based on the period before anything else. There's also a rule of thumb that you just take the first solid offer that comes along because filmmaking is a precarious place, you know. But I tend not to get offered the contemporary stuff. It's not, not really my area.

Kevin Bethune
Very cool.

Dana Arnett
Yeah. And you've been talking a little bit about, if I could describe it, right, centering yourself in the work in the time period, you know, when you create a film or you create a representation in that film, there are many points of interest that you have to draw from, and then that translates into props and lettering and illustration needed in the scene. Is there a mindset that you have to adopt that puts you in that period creative problem solving space so that you can actually deliver what the production actually needs?

Annie Atkins
Um.

Dana Arnett
That's a little existential, I guess, but that's the life you live, right?

Annie Atkins
Yeah, I can give you an example. I teach workshops here in Dublin in the subjects, and whenever I'm teaching the little calligraphy exercises we do, I always put on Gregorian chanting music because I think, like, I think you can get you're in the zone right.

Kevin Bethune
Oh, wow.

Annie Atkins
Does that mean I dress up in costumes, do my period graphic design? No, I don't. But I do a lot of research and I can go down rabbit holes with my research. And you can find wonderful things I mean, you can find wonderful things online now. I think eBay is a great place to look. And one of the great things about eBay is that for some reason, the website allows people to upload extremely high resolution photographs of very old documents. So you can get really, really detailed looks at all these little details in all these antique paperwork, which is great. But I do love studying old pieces of rubbish, basically old bus tickets, old cigaret packets, old bottle labels. And I find that the most interesting things are the things that were not necessarily designed by, you know, like not necessarily designed by the best designers in town, right.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Annie Atkins
I love the more cheaply printed things.

Dana Arnett
Yeah. The mundane, the ordinary. Right?

Annie Atkins
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's where you'll find the fun unusual little bits and pieces. Sign painting as well. You know, like the sign painting that I love is the kind of old dodgy stuff, the stuff that people were doing in Russia back in the day and now are gohst signs around town. Yeah, it's fun. It's fun to think about the characters who would have made this stuff. Like, I'm sometimes asked who my favorite designers are, and it's it's hard to answer because I think a lot of the design that I love was, was just made by people who whose names haven't been remembered. You know, it's just the jobbing designers, the people up the ladders, the people in the in the print shops.

Dana Arnett
Also have talked about how figure drawing, when you were studying art, had an influence on what you're doing now.

Annie Atkins
Yeah, I had a great tutor when I was in, I was doing a my foundation course, which is what we do here before we go on to do our degrees. We do a little bit of all different art in that year, and I had a brilliant tutor, Peter Prendergast, and he used to really get me to look at the model when we were drawing, because I had a terrible habit of looking at my hand when I drew. And, you know, maybe this is why I was not very good at life drawing. I was just always looking at the pencil, you know, and he kept saying to me over and over again, You have to look at the life in front of you. Look at the person, look at the figure. Don't look at your own hand on the piece of paper. And I've always remembered that. And I think it's the same when we design for film. You know, we're really studying the world around us and trying to imitate it somehow, even if we change it to suit the genre of the movie or the character of the plot or whatever it is, we're still really taking all the time from this real world that's been built by the by the people who lived before us. And I think it's important to keep looking back at your reference material all the time.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Annie Atkins
Because otherwise we just start making stuff up. And I'm convinced that our imaginations can never compare to the collective imagination of all the designers and craftspeople who've gone before us. It's really it's an incredible thing to be able to to create things for film. And you're kind of just stealing from history all the time and reworking it. And so, you know, making it maybe a little bit more fun or maybe you're making it pink, but you're still, like, trying to stay true to to its essence, somehow.

Kevin Bethune
It's like you have an infinite well, you can draw from for inspiration, it sounds like.

Annie Atkins
Yeah.

Kevin Bethune
And I guess. How did this manifest into your working relationship with Wes Anderson?

Annie Atkins
I had done a TV show here in Dublin about the building of the Titanic, and it was a really low budget show. And low budget shows are really hard to work on because you don't have a lot of support. There's only one graphic designer, but you still have to produce the same volume and quality of graphics that you would for any other show. And I remember after that show, I put my heart and soul into it because it was the first show I'd worked on that was set after the invention of the printing press. And I really loved that because all of a sudden I was designing like letterpress posters and pamphlets and cigaret packaging and things that just didn't exist in, for example, the 15th century, which is what I had been designing for. So I put a lot of myself into the project and I got some really great portfolio pieces out of us. But I said after that show, I said, I'm not doing another TV show and I'm leaving film because it was just too much. There wasn't enough time. Times are always against you, theres huge amount of pressure. I was like, I'm done. And then I got the call about The Grand Budapest Hotel, and, you know.

Dana Arnett
I'll take that call.

Annie Atkins
Yeah, yeah. But what they wanted to know was it was the first time Wes was coming to Europe to do a movie. So before that, he'd always been in the States. So he was looking for a European graphic designer. And somebody, a mutual colleague, recommended me and they wanted to know, did I have any examples of graphics in my portfolio from the early 1900s? And because I'd worked on this TV show about the Titanic, I was able to say, Yes, I do, actually. You know, I have all this stuff to show you. And it was great because it didn't matter to them that the show wasn't particularly good one. You know, and I always say to my workshop students, Now, don't worry about the script, don't worry about the quality of the script. It doesn't matter. What matters is the work that you produce, you know. And still, even now, you know, it just doesn't really matter to me what the script is like. As long as the like, period and genre are interesting, then you will make interesting things for that show.

Dana Arnett
The Design of Business | The Business of Design is brought to you by Morningstar. Investment research, data, and strategies to empower long term investor success.

Sol Sender
I'm Sol Sender. I'm head of Brand Strategy at Morningstar in Chicago.

Kevin Bethune
For Sol, design has always had a role in Morningstar's history and mission.

Sol Sender
I was attracted to Morningstar because I was very aware of the design legacy and the importance of design at Morningstar. The way in which design is valued is, in my experience, quite unique. And as a result, it's woven through all aspects of the business. It started from the very beginning with the development of the logo, and that Joe Mansueto, our founder, reached out to Paul Rand at the end of his career to develop that logo and that Joe saw the value and the need for that. And there's a legacy of design excellence that unfolded from that. There is also a real strong need for design from from the get go. And it was built into Morningstar's value proposition that Morningstar could take very complex financial data and express it on a single sheet of paper. So when you when you looked at the analysis of a mutual fund, it could be densely packed on a single sheet and still so elegant and readable. As we've moved into the digital age. That sense of design importance and a real built into our mission— How do we go about expressing that data to investors in a way that they can consume? And that's just been always very core to Morningstar from the start and continues to this day.

Dana Arnett
Morningstar design. Deeper insights at the intersection of design and investing. Find out more at Morningstar.com slash careers.

Kevin Bethune
Were there any moments that challenged perhaps your preconceived assumptions about a project and the approach that you would take? Did you ever have to radically pivot your position or try something radically new?

Annie Atkins
Oh, you mean like on a specific prop?

Kevin Bethune
Prop or project?

Annie Atkins
I mean, I've got a lot of stuff wrong.

Kevin Bethune
Say more.

Annie Atkins
And I realized in the nick of time that it's wrong. Yeah. I mean, I have, I have an example.

Kevin Bethune
Please.

Annie Atkins
I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'll tell you. I was working on a Spielberg movie, Bridge of Spies, which was based on a true story about the Cold War. So it was set in 1957 in— half of it was set in New York in 1957. And I had to make a newspaper. We had to make a lot of newspaper for movies. We always closed newspapers for a period filmmaking. And what we do in place of using real people's names and copy, we tend to use crew names. So we take our crew list and we use their names and we insert them into newspaper articles. And we would use crew names, for example, for bylines. Okay. And this is what happens when you stop looking at the reference material, okay? And you start just making stuff up. I was like, okay, journalists in 1957. I mean, I guess they were old guys. So I'll just take some guys names from the unit list and I'll drop those in as bylines. And I made a whole newspaper full of articles written by men. You know, that's my that's my sexism coming out there. And I suddenly realized that the true story that had broken about the spy in question, the story had been broken by a female journalist. And I was like, Oh, that's funny. Like, why was there a woman working in a newspaper office in 1957? And I did a little research, and I found out very quickly that, like, it wasn't an uncommon thing for women to be journalists in the fifties. Like, you know, where am I— where am I getting this idea from? And I think that I get that idea from storytelling. And by then just putting men's names into the bylines, I'm then perpetuating that myth. And I know it's just a small detail. Right. I know that pretty much the camera is not going to get close enough to the newspaper for long enough for a cinema audience to notice it. But I still don't want to perpetuate that myth. You know, actors pick up the newspapers, people read these prop newspapers. And I think we have to be careful about these little things that we can contribute to to this kind of alternate reality that we're sometimes making in film. Yeah, but I caught it in time and I changed it. Other things, maybe I haven't caught in time.

Kevin Bethune
You're so candid about talking about mistakes in your process. Is there something about your profession that allows for that more freely?

Annie Atkins
Possibly, yeah. I mean, it's a high pressure environment, so everybody's constantly making mistakes. Right. And I think it's okay as long as you quickly throw your hands up and go, okay, my mistake. How do we fix it? When I first started out, I think my instinct was to just, like, cover it up, you know, or point the finger, blame somebody else. I'm always telling my students, don't blame anybody else, okay, if something goes wrong, just own up to it. Except for the production office, you can blame pretty much anything you like on them. But it is a high pressure environment and things do go wrong. And I think one of the things I like about the job is that there's a very high turnover of work. So you get like a lot of a lot of dopamine hits per day for getting stuff done. Whereas in my commercial work, when I work on like branding projects for clients outside filmmaking, it's a much longer process, slower. You get a lot more time, more time to consider things. Whereas prop making is very much like, go, go, go. It's, it's, it's thrilling. So yeah, maybe you can make more mistakes in that sense. Yeah.

Dana Arnett
Annie I heard you, I think you said at one point, 90% of what we make firmly sits in the background. I also know that the devils in the details, especially, I would guess, with the productions you've worked on, because there's so many exquisite elements that live on the screen with all those levels of craft and the authenticity that's required to invest in those props, and it strikes me that those objects themselves may influence the characters on the set or the fiction itself, and certainly the audiences that are enjoying the film. Do you get that feeling or does the director expect that, or are these just things that appear on screen?

Annie Atkins
I hope that our designs in the art departments have an impact on the cast. And because I think a lot of the time that's who we're thinking of, we're thinking of the actors. Because we know that most of what we make doesn't end up in the cut. You know, either it's in the blurry backgrounds or it's just sort of shot or it didn't end up on the set at all. Or, you know, a lot of the stuff we make just goes missing. It's just not there. It's just not in close up or it's upside down and skewed and out of focus. You know, you get used to that. So I do think that when I'm making pieces, I'm thinking about the actors a lot. Can the work we do help nudge them a little bit further into character? I don't know. I mean, I think actors that, you know, I've worked on movies that like, you know, Joaquin Phoenix has acted in. And I'm pretty sure he can do an incredible performance in front of a green screen, you know? Does he need my work? Probably not. But I think there is something in film. We all think that our role is the most important role. Otherwise, the work doesn't get made, right. It has to work like that. So the costume designers think that they have the most important job. You know, the composers think that they have the most important job. Of course, in graphic design, we know that we have the most important job, right?

Dana Arnett
Absolutely.

Annie Atkins
Yeah.

Dana Arnett
And then you have to make four of them, right?

Annie Atkins
Yeah. You have to make your, we call them repeats, identical copies of each thing because most of what we make in graphics is made out of paper and the sets are hot, the actors hands are sweaty, they do many, many takes of any given shot. So they're holding the same prop all day. So the standby crew have to have replacements to swap them out with. Yeah. So I suppose the actors do spend quite a bit of time looking at them, looking at the props, because they're holding them all day long, you know, and I have had actors come to me and say, oh, you know, I, I loved the vintage passport that you made for my character or whatever it is. But then actors are also very charming people, so I don't know.

Kevin Bethune
So, Annie, in preparing for this conversation, it's just been a joy to really immerse in your work and also to hear from you directly, the nature of your process, how deep it can go. And not to mention, having enjoyed some of the film projects that you were a part of, just the level of painstaking detail evident in your craft is mind boggling. But I guess I have to ask, was there a personal toll in this journey of balancing the professional demands with just you as a person? Was there any toll to that?

Annie Atkins
Oh, completely, completely. I'm a broken, broken woman. I feel like I feel like my entire life is like torn between my work and my my home life and my children. I mean, forget about a social life. I don't have one of those at all. But yeah, like I had my first baby six years ago, and I have another little baby in the house now as well. So at the moment I'm really just doing what we call additional graphics, which means I don't take on an entire movie. I'm just a kind of a helping hand to graphic designers on films. And, you know, they'll send me a list of like ten things that they need made that week, and I'll put my head down and get on with it, you know? Yeah, it's a huge compromise. I mean, like, yeah, my children will grow up and, you know, I'll go back to working full film days, I suppose at some point possibly. But there's that, there's not much of a life outside of film the hours along. It's not just that, the hours alone, but the day is also very demanding. Like you produce a lot of work in a day. Like you might produce like, I don't know, like maybe sometimes ten pieces of design in one day. Like at the moment I'm working on Penguin Book cover, a real one, not not a movie prop. And it's just a joy to get to work on one book cover for a matter of weeks. Whereas on a movie set I would make yeah, you could make, you could make ten, ten book covers in a day. So yeah, yeah there's a toll. I'm tired.

Kevin Bethune
And I guess maybe probing a little bit deeper. Were there, were there moments where you felt like, wow, I reached a breaking point or I reached my limit or even exceeded my limit? And perhaps were there any key learnings that you take forward from those experiences?

Annie Atkins
I think I was really too busy just before the pandemic. And I mean, I don't think I'm alone in this. I think a lot of people were like, what's like 2019? Was it? Yeah, beginning of 2020. I think a lot of people in the world were too busy and all of a sudden we had stopped being busy very abruptly. That was incredible because I just yeah, I just I slowed down and I definitely reevaluated my whole schedule. And when I slowly started going back to my studio, I was very careful not to take on too many projects at once. And yeah, I have worked at a different, a different pace since then. Yeah, for sure.

Dana Arnett
And maybe keeping with the mental hygiene theme here, there's another exciting thing that you just completed, and that's the publishing of your book. Also, what were your motivations in bringing your body of work to life in a book form?

Annie Atkins
I loved writing that book. I really did. I mean, I was writing about a subject that I knew so well and that I'd been doing for so many years. And it's such an invisible art form once it's in a movie because like I said, you know, hardly anything we make is actually seen. So it was really wonderful to be able to write in detail about some props that had never really got a close up in a movie but had been integral somehow to the production. So yeah, that was really fun. And also just bringing the subject in front of the eyes of people who had maybe not considered it as a career before, which is always really exciting because I think a lot of young graphic designers like myself, when I, when I graduated, you know, we just kind of naturally go towards, you know, advertising and branding and we don't really consider a lot of other graphic design forms. So it's really great to be able to to show off the subjects to people who might not have considered it was a career.

Kevin Bethune
And, I guess, was it just graphic design or young graphic designers as the primary audience? Or were there other audiences in your mind that you were hoping to reach.

Annie Atkins
So Phaidon publish the book. And it was brilliant working with them. But before them I had I had spoken to another publisher about this, and they had expressed doubts that there was enough of a crossover audience, that there was enough people who were interested in film and graphic design to warrant a book on the subject. I admit I felt a little bit stung by that. I was like- I was like, I'm pretty sure like it's not as niche an area as you might think it is, but, you know, maybe it is a smaller section of designers. But I've always felt that. I've always felt that most people enjoy film. We all enjoy watching TV. So I think any designers out there who hadn't considered before that a graphic designer had to make the stuff that you see in your favorite TV show every evening. I think that's- that's a big enough net of people. And I think I think also the book appeals to to to any pedant who watch his movies, because we all like watching a movie and pointing out the mistakes and it, right. And part of my book is about that.

Kevin Bethune
Very nice.

Dana Arnett
Along with that great book that's out there. You also teach small cohorts, graphic design, right? You do workshops. What do you see in the future of this craft and maybe what do you see in their eyes interacting with your students?

Annie Atkins
I love teaching. I love having students come here to visit me in Dublin and showing them all my little tricks of the trade. I think a lot of students feel like it's a new craft, and it's not at all. You know, every movie like it can go way back like Mary Poppins, you know, 1960s has beautiful, peaceful graphic design. And it's it just wasn't always created by someone in the role of graphic designer. It was often just somebody in the art department. So I don't think that we are reinventing the wheel at all. In fact, we're learning our tricks from everyone who's gone before us. But I do see students wanting to step away from their computers and do stuff by hand. And I think they're excited by that. I think they're excited by the thought of bookbinding and calligraphy or period handwriting, hand lettering, you know, all these little things that we have to do in graphic prop making, just even like folding, sticking, gluing cigaret boxes is so exciting. And, you know, I always say to them, you know, when you first start in an apartment, you're going to have to probably glue together 200 fake pastry boxes or whatever it is, you know. And they're thrilled by that, you know, because they like the idea of using their hands again. It is exciting. And I love that part of the job, too, although I also do have maybe I have rose tinted glasses about it, because if I get on a job where I don't have to actually physically make anything like that, I can just email digital files and the person will make them for me, like if I'm working transatlantic. I do sometimes breathe a sigh of relief and I'm like, Oh, I don't actually have to make anything today, you know.

Kevin Bethune
As we think about young creatives, I mean, they're, in general, they're navigating so many different paradigms that they're they're in a physical world. They're often in a digital world. Something in between, whether-whether it's a mixed reality or a metaverse. What do you say to young people who are navigating and treading these different landscapes? What would you say to them?

Annie Atkins
Oh, God. I mean, it's it's it's all just practice and it's all experimentation. I mean, I often feel like they come to my workshops and think that I am going to teach them every craft and every skill that they're going to need for a career in filmmaking. And that's just not possible because I don't know what their next job, what their first job is going to be. Right. I mean, I don't know what my next job is going to be. I don't know if it's going to be set in Victorian London or if it's going to be on like a spaceship flying 500 years in the future. So it's not possible to learn every skill that you're going to need. I still don't have every skill that I need for working, so I always feel like I'm thrown in at the deep end. But I think I think what I can do is teach them the confidence to say, you know what, I'll give it a go, because I found that that's what I had to do. You know, when I started my first job on The Tudors, I'd been working digitally for years. Like, all of a sudden I had to make royal scrolls and design stained glass. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I had been doing digital logo, design magazine layout. There were none of those things in the course of Henry the Eight, right. But I felt like I had maybe, maybe because of my Mum and Dad, because they were kind of crafty and artistic and they had always give me a lot of encouragement. Maybe I felt like, you know, I was capable of just rolling up my sleeves and going, you know, I'll try it. And that's what I like to pass on to people now as well when I can.

Kevin Bethune
Love that. Thank you.

Dana Arnett
And as the curtain comes down on this episode, on behalf of all of us, we thank you.

Annie Atkins
Thank you so much. It was really lovely talking to you.

Kevin Bethune
The Design of Business | the Business of Design is a podcast from Design Observer. Our website is DBBD dot Design Observer dot com. There you can find more about our guest today, Annie Atkins, plus the complete archive from past guests and hosts. To listen, go to dbbd.designobserver.com

Dana Arnett
If you like what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find The Design of Business | The Business of Design in Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kevin Bethune
And if you already subscribe to the podcast, tell your friends about the show or go to Apple Podcasts and rate us, which is a great way to let other people know about the show.

Dana Arnett
Thank you again to our partner Morningstar for making this conversation possible. Experience the intersection of design and investing at Morningstar.com. And between episodes, you can keep up with Design Observer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Kevin Bethune
Our producer is Adina Karp. Judybelle Camangyan edits the show. Betsy Vardell is Design Observer's executive producer. Our theme music is by Mike Errico. Thanks, as always, to Design Observer founder Jessica Helfand and other previous hosts, Ellen McGirt and Michael Bierut.



Posted in: Arts + Culture, Design of Business | Business of Design, Graphic Design



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