Graphic Design in Cinema

“Maybe without me realizing, when I was little and watching cartoons or live action films, I loved to remake the props. For example, making treasure maps aged with coffee or tea. If you’ve watched Blue’s Clues, Steve gets mail right? I loved to recreate the letter he gets,” Evan Wijaya began, opening our conversation by explaining his initial excitement around the graphical elements in a film. Evan is a graphic designer who is now involved with many films and shows.

The entire Harry Potter film series and The Grand Budapest Hotel has a role in pushing and affirming Evan’s choice to major in Visual Communication Design and dream to one day be involved in film production. Following his graduation from university, Evan worked at Thinking*Room for almost three years before diving into the world of film in 2019 when he worked on the graphic props for Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens (English: Ali & the Queens of Queens). Since this first step he took into the film world, Evan has now worked for almost 30 titles including films and series.

His nerve might just be one of Evan’s assets in penetrating the film industry. Early in his efforts to enter the field, he still felt that there was considerable distance between him and the film sphere. With no connections in the field of film, he drew up the courage to directly introduce himself to fellow practitioners both verbally and through emails as well as attending events related to film. A path started to emerge for him until he finally got through to the art department handling the film Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens.

For Evan, his scope in each film production can be categorized into two fields. The first are tasks for promotional needs. This includes title treatments or poster designs and other promotional elements both print and digital. In this task scope, Evan will coordinate with the filmmakers, whether it be producers, directors, and in some cases, also involve the marketing team. The film Cinta Pertama, Kedua, & Ketiga (English: First, Second & Third Love) was Evan’s first experience in working within this scope.


In Evan’s eyes, each production house has their own distinct process. When he gets involved prior to the actual filming, usually he only gets a synopsis or the script. However, when he’s involved after the filming has wrapped, he’s usually given a rough cut from the shoot. “On top of that, I also ask for other documents like the director's treatment to help [understand] the world they want to build,” he explained.

In the context of graphic design, this scope of work runs similarly to branding work. The tasks encompass the creation of a concept, artistic direction, photography direction, color use direction, layouting, and typographical application. But before getting into the nitty gritty, Evan makes sure to communicate with the filmmakers regarding the points to be conveyed by the film. For Evan, this stage is a crucial phase as he must make sure his perception of the film and that of the filmmakers are aligned. To him, the filmmakers have a prerogative in evaluating the designs he creates.

The second job scope involves the design of graphic props based on the narrative and visual needs. In this scope, Evan works as part of the art department and possibly the directors themselves. Unlike the previous job scope, in this category Evan is in charge of designing elements that will be present on screen.

“Usually I’ll get the full scenario. I have to read [that]. From there, what I usually do is break down the script. As I read, I highlight parts that may need graphic props. For example, a scene may need a ticket or a postcard. There may also be scenes where [the property needs] hasn’t been described clearly. For example, a scene where a character has to get on a taxi set in 2005. That’s where [one] has to have a keen eye for where graphical or typographical elements may be needed,” Evan explained his work process when he handled the graphic props for Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens. After this step, Evan will coordinate with the art director to make sure they’ve covered all their bases.

Research is also key in the design process for Evan, especially when creating graphic props. He shared his experience designing the graphic props for the series Gadis Kretek (English: Cigarette Girl). In the early stages, instead of receiving a synopsis, Evan was instead asked to read the novel. It turns out that by reading the novel, Evan was able to find a clear visualization, like the details in the packaging or the text on the pamphlets.

After reading the book, he bought and collected old cigarette labels to study the type of paper used, the print technique, and even the common color schemes used. Evan also read a few books about the unfiltered cigarette industry in the past. He found that the copywriting used was quite iconic and far from how the Indonesian language is used today. These details are what he tried to recreate in his design of the graphic props for Gadis Kretek.

In pursuing this career, Evan has chosen to work as a freelancer. Working for a variety of different production teams and houses is one way he is trying to build his network. By consistently creating high-quality work, he is sure that this will bring the eyes of filmmakers his way and take him to further projects going forward. Now, Evan is working on several upcoming titles arriving soon for the public to enjoy. Evan’s practice and involvement in many screened titles has shown a further potential of graphic design.

About the Author

Daud Sihombing

Daud Sihombing has been writing professionally for the past 9 years. This fervent alternative publishing enthusiast prefers his quaint little town over the hustle and bustle of the city and doesn't let sleep stop him from watching every single AS Roma match.