Diagon Alley: Recreation of a Magical Shopping District


Hundreds of wannabe-magicians walk down a cobblestone street, lugging bags filled with wands, robes, and plush three-headed dogs. A dragon breathes fire atop a giant bank, where animatronic goblins lead visitors--some probably crying after waiting on a four-hour line--to a massive thrill ride, in which they have to smuggle gold past evil wizards without throwing up all the butterbeer they just drank.

This is the recently opened Diagon Alley theme park in Orlando, Florida, a real-world re-creation of the magical shopping district described in J.K. Rowling’s books. It's the newest expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened four years ago at the Universal Studios Orlando Resort, and already includes a re-creation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with several rides. Millions of dollars went into building Diagon Alley and a not insignificant chunk of that went toward producing its meticulously detailed graphic and product design.

To create the visuals, Universal Studios tapped MinaLima, a London-based design firm made up of Miraphora Mina (a witchy Rowling-esque name if we’ve ever heard one) and Eduardo Lima. The pair was the natural pick, as they’d already spent 10 years designing graphics for all eight Harry Potter films. They met on the set of The Chamber of Secretsand have worked together since, creating everything from the Marauders’ Map to The Daily Prophet newspaper.

Their designs also had to convey Diagon Alley’s age--it’s not a brand-new mall, it’s a historical shopping district dating back centuries (some fans estimate Ollivander’s Wand Shop started in the 4th Century BC). MinaLima made much of their signage look intentionally weathered, with ghost-lettering, faded paint, and vintage wood.

Read the full story at Fast Company Design.

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