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Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins

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Showcasing the cream of the design scene, Dublin's annual design festival Offset runs from 6–8 March. The schedule of speakers lists some of the best creative minds in the world and includes Annie Atkins, a graphic designer for film, who is Welsh-born but Dublin-based. Her work includes the Oscar-winning Grand Budapest Hotel and Penny Dreadful, and you can catch her Offset talk on Friday March 6 at 6pm. We caught up with her to ask her about design, Dublin and working with Mr Anderson...

Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins

First things first, what was it like working with Wes Anderson? 

Wes Anderson is the most meticulous and hands-on director I’ve ever worked with, and I worked closely with him and his production designer Adam Stockhausen every day. The whole job was an incredible rollercoaster from the moment I got the first call from the producers, to the winter I spent with the cast and crew in the fictional Empire of Zubrowka, to the day I sat down in the cinema to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel for the first time. I doubt I’ll work on a more beloved film that pays so much attention to graphic design again in my lifetime, so not a day goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars (and Wes and Adam!) for that opportunity.

To Dublin next, is it a creative city? 

Definitely. We make so many films and TV shows here in Dublin, but I don't think people realise it. It's funny to hear critics rave about the sets in Ripper Street, for example, without realising it was all made here from start to finish – it's like they actually think it was shot in Victorian London. We have such great art directors, set designers, and construction teams here, and most of time they're building all this up from scratch.

Why is Offset unique?

Offset is more craic than other conferences because everybody hangs out together in the bars and you get to meet all the designers whose work you follow. They've done a great thing with it, turning it in to one of the best design conferences in the world and in such a short space of time. 

Who are you looking forward to seeing?

Cartoon Saloon, the animation studio from Kilkenny.

Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins
Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins

Which other Dublin designers inspire you?

My favourite Dublin designers are the craftspeople I get to work with in filmmaking here – the sign painters, the draughtsmen and the model makers. It's inspiring working in a tactile environment where everything is made by hand. It's a secret world of design because when you watch this stuff on screen you don't notice it. That's the beauty of it. It's all a trick. 

What developments have you noticed in the Dublin design scene in recent years?

I was lucky to start work on The Tudors back in 2007 when they were raising the bar for TV design. These days, design for television is expected to be on a par with film, because everybody's watching shows instead of going to the cinema. It's exciting to see American and British productions wanting to get their shows made here now. Partly for our great locations, but also for our design standards.

Where in Dublin inspires you?

While you're walking around town, look out for Dublin's ghost signs. It's an old town and a lot of signs from the past hundred years or so are still standing – have a look at for some examples. We have a strong tradition here of hand-crafted sign-making and I'm always trying to emulate it. The Central Hotel's charming sign on Exchequer Street was a big influence on the glass signage we made for Penny Dreadful

Where would you recommend for a quiet Sunday drink?

The Stag's Head on Dame Lane is great for Sunday Dublin pints. Look out for the old mosaic signage in the doorway. And if you look to your right you'll see fake Victorian graphics left over from TV shows, advertising peculiar things like 'Carriage Aprons'. Sam's Barbers across the road still has signs in the window advertising wooden legs. 

Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins
Dublin & Design with Annie Atkins

Best bargain restaurant?

I like Umi on Dame Street for their Palestinian falafels and Musashi on Capel Street for sushi. They're both delicious, and they both serve meals for well under a tenner. 

Favourite place for a stroll?

I love the Phoenix Park and go there every night for a walk after work in the summertime. There's always a herd or two of deer hanging around, but recently at dusk we saw a badger too.