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How Wes Anderson's Movies Inspire Us at Emagine

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As Wes Anderson slowly takes over the world of contemporary cinema, his unique role in modern filmmaking is clear to see. Nestled between the Michael Bay’s and Quentin Tarantino’s of the world, whose expertise rely on visual effects and stunts as a core ingredient to the narrative Anderson takes a much softer approach. His attention to detail, intricate set, beautiful costume design and colourful environments create a world that is far removed from the popcorn-filled cinema. Through Anderson’s incessant desire to recreate an authentic world, we are transported to the fictional war-torn Eastern European land of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), the testosterone-driven private high school of Rushmore (1998), and even to the animated woodland world of Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). His worlds' rely heavily on three recognisable ingredients: symmetry, colour palettes and set design. How can we (as designers) translate these three elements in what we do on a daily basis? It possible, is it feasible?

Symmetry

From Anderson’s breakout hit Rushmore to his most recent masterpiece The Grand Budapest Hotel, symmetry has been become synonymous with his filmmaking. From actively arranging each shot so that the most important aspect is centred smack-bang in the middle, there is no question as to what he wants the audience to focus on. There’s no attempt to fool the audience or disorient them. 

Similar to good design, Anderson leads us to understand where we are meant to be looking, what’s important and that it will play a part in the film. Alongside the informative role of symmetry, Anderson also creates symmetrical images that are interesting to look at from a still-image point of view. Each still dedicated to a specific symmetrical purpose works individually, separate to the film. As someone said ‘Every still from a Wes Anderson movie could be a poster on it’s own!'

As designers, we have two roles: to showcase and communicate the information at hand, as well as create visually stunning pieces that work well without the information. A non-English speaker could watch an Anderson movie and appreciate it’s beauty, despite not understanding the plot. In design, we must attempt to merge the two to create both informative AND stunning work. 

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Colour Palette

Anderson’s most recent works have perhaps been a clear example of how his respect for visually appealing colour palettes has emerged. The fictional worlds of each film has such a precise colouring unique to that precise film. Numerous Pantone mood boards could be created solely on each film, and each character has a specific set of colours unique to them. In The Grand Budapest Hotel the purple-toned lobby boys juxtapose with the pink hues of the hotel, yet also blend as a perfect unit. In Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou the colour palette is a combination of sea blues, reds and mustard yellows. Each film’s colour palette becomes associated with the film almost immediately. 

From a design point of view, it’s interesting, because Anderson successfully incorporates the colour as a primary role in the narrative. To understand how colour creates a mood, encourages emotions, and adds to an overall experience is one of the most important aspects of design. To incorporate existing brand colours into a piece which require completely different set of tones is a tricky task. Yet, with research and time, we can do it. As Anderson demonstrates, the use of colour creates a world for the viewer to immerse themselves in, and as designers we can create this in our work. 

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Set Design

Anderson stated that if he had not become a filmmaker, he would have enjoyed a career as an architect. His love for set design are apparent in the films, where every aspect of the fictional environment is considered and curated accordingly with that world. Attention to detail ranges from bookshelves, paintings, music, personal items, wallpapers and even carpets to create a world that is authentic and personal to the character and the world Anderson is trying to create. His respect for set design add to the personality of individual characters with the set representing the traits and idiosyncrasies. This love for design is evident in The Grand Budapest Hotel where he built an entire fictional set from scratch. Each and every minute detail is carefully considered to create a world that is believable and fantastic, and the audience is thoroughly immersed. 

In design, attention to detail is one of the fundamental aspects. Without it, even a good idea or concept can fail at the beginning. By considering the point of every single element of a piece of design (while it possibly results in a longer process) the rationale behind a piece can result in being completely thought-out and logical. If every minute detail is considered, researched, planned and communicated in a way faithful to the brief, design can create a world similar to Andersons, and invite the viewer to be a part of it. 

How do we implement Anderson's use of symmetry, colour and design into our work?

We can certainly implement Wes Anderson's cinematic techniques into our daily design work, simply by recognising the use of symmetry as a way to point the viewer where to focus their attention. With specific colour choices we can create the emotion associated with the piece through psychology of colour. Anderson's in-depth research into his set design inspires authentic and realistic environments, and this could be utilised in our own work, researching every aspect of the brief to create design that resonates with the intent of the client. Overall, Anderson's films create a sense of wonder and fantasy through detailed planning. Not terribly far from how designers work!

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