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Lillian Heyward started her career as a sign-painter, later owning a sign shop. Her graphic design work includes the films “Forces of Nature”, “The Notebook”, “The Conspirator”, “The Longest Ride” and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”. 

As much as the actors bring the characters to life, the production design brings the world they inhabit to life. My part of that magic is through the graphics in collaboration with the production designer. The nuts and bolts of what I do is, I'm sure, familiar to all of you.

 1) Graphics Breakdown- read the script and identify featured graphics and then anticipate the graphic needs of each scene. 


2) Meet with designer to discuss reference, color selection- as to character and scene, discuss mood and direction. 


3) Departments - Address each departments graphic needs- Props, set dec, construction, wardrobe, production


4) Clearances- names for products, characters, schools, police, etc.


4) Preliminary designs;  using supporting reference, (at this point I hope to be in synch with what the designer wants) to create renditions of period or contemporary designs


5) Approval process- submit final designs to production designer, then art director, and then subsequent departments for continuity of design per production designer.


6) Production; provide drawings and specifications for construction and paint, finished artwork ready for outsourcing in proper format. Output as much as possible in house with my own graphics kit.


That’s my time table, but it is my “real world” experience that has enabled me to deliver designs that work for whatever production I’m chosen for.

In my late 20’s I opened a sign company and small design firm in a small town in South Carolina. I designed logos, sign systems for the county, hospitals, fire department, retail, restaurants. Made logos menus, brochures, letterheads pop displays. I designed , built, painted, carved, gilded and installed. I had to present designs, give estimates, and meet deadlines. I was featured in books on signs and in a Graphis anthology of environmental graphics along with local awards from Main Street USA.


I didn’t know what a perfect proving ground for film my commercial career was until I lost my sign and design shop to a fire. With the help of a former employee I landed my first job on  “Hudsucker Proxy” starting as a painter and quickly promoted to sign writer. It wasn’t until my construction coordinator  encouraged me to show my graphic design portfolio, from my business, to the art director and that landed my first job as graphic designer for “Forces of Nature”.  Since then I have worked on “The Notebook”, “Conspirator”, Dear John”, the television series “Reckless”, “The Longest Ride”, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” , "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” and more.

That’s what I do and how I work, but what I truly love and share with the production designer and my fellow crew members is the passion to create something that can only be done as part of a team. The pride in giving it my best and then to see that work and the work of all of us come to life on screen. That is the thrill. And as I’ve often told people “when I do my job well you will not know I did my job at all”.

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Meagen Lee graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Production Design. She is currently working as a graphic designer and illustrator in the film and television industry in Atlanta, Georgia.

My experiences in the graphic design world have taken me from designing that lone can of dog food in the abandoned grocery store to developing concept art for supernatural landscapes. It’s been said before, but when it comes to creating things like labels, logos, signs, and all of those little details that fill in the world, I do my best work when no one realizes I did anything at all. This of course all begins with the brainchild of the production designer, and how my contributions will fit into the world they’ve created. He/she gives me the roadmap and I explore the routes along the way through sketches, research and inspiration given to me by the production designer, all the while keeping my eyes set on the destination to ensure I do my part in keeping the vision intact while furthering the story.


Work always begins with a thorough script breakdown. It’s important to understand what’s written on the page, but just as important is to know what isn’t. A set can contain any number of graphic needs to help it come to life. Pre-vis has also become an integral part of the process and has only deepened the relationship between the graphic designer and production designer. Being able to create whatever the given design need is and then render it into set images, concept art, etc. helps to see what’s working or what might need some attention. It all helps lock in that specific vision, so that the set design can enrich the characters and illuminate whatever challenges they might be facing.  


I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented production designers and be part of the various worlds they’ve created. They’ve all come with different creative challenges, and the role of a graphic designer is something that evolves with each new project. For me, it has evolved into doing concept art, and learning those skills has given me a more thorough understanding of both design language and visualization.

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Maki Takenouchi is a Graphic Artist, Production Designer, and Art Director. Recent projects: Graphic Artist for the TV show "Seven Seconds"; Production Designer for "First Match"; Art Director for the film "Rebel in the Rye".

I'm often asked to describe the job of Graphic Artists in film & television. No, we don't make opening titles or end credits. Truthfully, it's better to remain a bit mysterious because when viewers begin wondering whether a character actually crossed beyond town limits, or whether the old terrazzo floor of the police precinct was printed, we've failed to bring the world of the story to life.

Graphic Artists create things that inhabit the world of the story: signs, fictional brands, packaging, advertising, storefronts, graffiti, art, wallpaper, newspapers, books, posters, and photo composites that reveal a character's history; as well as motion graphics for cell phones, computers, and tv screens; and set surfaces or scenery that's printed. Behind the scenes, Graphic Artists also design previs, concept art, and Look Books. The position was created by United Scenic Artists Local 829 to "address the evolving visual needs of the entertainment industry". In the Union's lexicon we are "Computer Artists". Does that make us machine with parts made in Japan? Unfortunately no, but the term does describe the broad scope of our work: Art produced on a computer. Today, we'd be hard pressed to find anything that's not produced on a computer. Most Art Directors and Assistant Art Directors nowadays use computers to produce technical set designs and construction drawings. Graphic Artists serve as a catch-all for anything else that's designed on a computer.

Understanding the Production Designer's vision is paramount to making good work. In my mind, good work translates as seamless elements that help drive story, create visual plot points, convey character, imbue ambiance, and create a compelling and textured world. The Designer understands the nuances of the story we are telling, the visual arc, the director's vision, how the cinematographer is planning to light it, what angles will be seen, and what kinds of story telling challenges and concerns are on the table. Stealing whatever time I can for a mind meld with the Designer eliminates guess work, and gets me up to speed on their vision. If the Designer, Director, and/or Cinematographer is undecided or divided in the approach, then I often collaborate with the Designer on previs concepts to facilitate brainstorming and decision making. Look Books are also something I help Designers create. The act of making a Look Book is often an integral part of the design process, and they convey the visual essence of important sets and scenes. The books help establish a common visual language for everyone in the Art Dept as well as Director, Cinematographer, and other key departments.

The Art Dept is like an orchestra, with different players contributing their own harmonious tone and rhythm. In this grand symphony, the Production Designer creates the melody.

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