Visual Style: The Design of a Production

When discussing filmmaking and  visual style we often think of the Director’s vision, we celebrate the Cinematographer’s sensibility but we have a tendency to forget the Production Designer. Many might even be confused as to the differences between a Production Designer and an Art Director. After all, even the Academy of Motion Pictures used to celebrate Production Designers with the Best Art Direction award until 2012.

A Production Designer is responsible for interpreting the script and the Director’s vision for the film and translating it into physical environments in which the actors can develop their characters and present the story. The Production Designer, along with the Director and the Cinematographer, constitute what we can call the “Trinity of Visual Style”

The Production Designer is at the helm of various departments, overviewing Concept Art,  Art (Sets Props…), Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup and in more recent history also CG. The Director’s vision is translated into a series of conceptual and practical guidelines for an army of artists and artisans to create a cohesive pictorial scheme that directly informs and supports the story and its point of view.

Below you can find a short list of Production Designers. This is not intended to be a list of the best or more successful designer. It simply invites you to discover some of the people co-responsible for some of the most amazing visual styles in recent cinema history.

Adam Stockhausen: 12 Years a Slave (2013), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). IMDB, VIDEO GALLERY

K.K. Barrett : Lost in Translation (2003), Her (2013) and Being John Malkovich (1999). IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

David Gropman: Life of Pi (2012), Chocolat (2000) and Doubt (2008). IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Beth Mickle: Drive (2011), 2 Guns (2013) and Only God Forgives (2013) IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Alex McDowell: Fight Club (1999), Man of Steel (2013) and Watchmen (2009). IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Jess Gonchor : No Country for Old Men (2007), Moneyball (2011) and True Grit (2010) IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Eve Stewart: The King’s Speech (2010), Les Misérables (2012) and Revolver (2005) IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Jack Fisk: There Will Be Blood (2007), Mulholland Drive (2001) and The Thin Red Line (1998). IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

William Chang: In the Mood for Love (2000), 2046 (2004) and The Grandmaster (2013) IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

Guy Hendrix Dyas: Inception (2010) IMDBVIDEO GALLERY

It is easy to underestimate the amount of work, attention and detail needed for good Production Design. So much needs to be told and felt in a scene and a strong, united and defined style depends also on the more hidden aspects of the mise-en-scene. The set, props and wardrobe are continuously talking to you on a less conscious level.

One response to “Visual Style: The Design of a Production

  1. Pingback: Visual Style: Cinematographers on Cinematography – Part 1 | w(a/o)ndering filmmaking·

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