Movies to Inspire You as a Graphic Designer (Part 2)

Posted on
March 15, 2021

As we know, design is creating something useful in an attractive and unique way. As a graphic designer or creative person, surely you enjoy watching movies about graphic design and audiovisual work through visual stimuli: art direction, script, photography or even the costumes.

Every designer or creative has the gift of having a taste for visual culture. Graphic design movies can inspire us and work as a reference for the improvement of visual composition and esthetics. That's why we chose some relevant films that you, as a creative person shouldn't miss.

Toy Story

Toy Story posed a paradigm that today is still extraordinarily profitable. When we were born, sound films, color films and animated films had already been invented. The only real cinematic revolution we have experienced is that of Toy Story 20 years ago. It was the first entirely computer-generated film, apart from motivating visual advances that influenced and benefited real image cinema. 

Toy Story was the highest-grossing film of 1995 and the third highest-grossing animated film in history, after The Lion King and Aladdin. What is the secret to making Toy Story exciting for everyone who watches it? Toy Story evokes a feeling that is recognizable by any human being on the planet.

In this case, the fantasy of our toys living adventures, based on the simple precept that, regardless of our environment, we have all been children and we all took our first social steps by telling our lives to the toys and even loving them.

It is the perfect mix of complex animations that provoke emotions with good storytelling. And for graphic designers, it was a real challenge. For instance:

  • Assembling the sketches of each scene. They were only lines that the artists are responsible for capturing while writers were writing the script.
  • To give more dimension and volume to the characters, designers added shadows, programming and applying textures, colors, patterns and other characteristics of the material to make complex and attractive sets.
  • With the previous phase finished, animators used a video reference to give the movement of the characters, both the body and the expressions of the mouth and face.
  • The penultimate step of this process is the lighting that helps to integrate all the elements of each shot. This involves placing virtual light sources to create an emotional state in the audience by attracting their attention at certain points in the plot. In this way, the lighting department is in charge of visually forming a finished image by integrating the characters, sets and effects.
  • Finally, the effects artists are responsible for giving credibility to the interaction of the characters and a realistic world. To do this, they use complex simulation software that gives a physics-based idea of what natural phenomena look like. These effects reinforce the emotions felt by the audience. 


Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrián Molina, is a wonderful film. Not in vain it won the Oscar for Best Animated Film, beating films like "The boss baby" or "Ferdinand". However, to make it, it was necessary to develop new skills in animation and visual effects. 

Coco tells the story of a 12-year-old boy, who accidentally gets into the land of the dead and he seeks help from his late great-great-grandfather to return him to his family. The Pixar team had a great challenge ahead of them, as they needed to produce a layered and complex environment to tell a story full of cultural elements from the Mexican tradition and address universal themes such as family, life and death.

How they created the "life after death" environment

The Land of the Dead in the movie used Guanajuato as an inspiration. Its architecture of wide terraces and steep hillsides became the dominant reference, both for its colorful houses and for the night views that illuminated the hillside.

Pixar extrapolated the idea of the hillside, with the layout of Land of the Dead as a vertical city, which contrasts with the film's description of Miguel's hometown. In addition, they had another challenge, how to illuminate this enormous structure organically, since in the Land of the Dead it is always night but it is full of colors to accentuate and maintain the energy of this world.

Another complex aspect of the film was the scope and use of the lights. It required an amazing amount of light to illuminate each scene: street lights, illuminated signs, buildings, moving vehicles – Such a challenge led them to a new record: producing a scene with 7 million lights. 

Regarding the 3D animation, Pixar film was a great success with critics and audiences. With impeccable technical work, the texture and characterization of the characters seem to us a real wonder. However, the 3D animation of "Coco" was another technical challenge for the team. They had to animate characters without muscles since the inhabitants of the Land of the Dead are skeletons. 

Finally, the character of Coco was one of the most difficult parts of the animation. For instance, the neck of Coco has an excess of flesh and had to move with her when she walked.

For the animators of the film, it wasn't an easy job to animate such peculiar characteristics and to give more realism to the character, they needed the help of a Mexican grandmother to be able to get inspiration from her physical appearance, her movements and her gestures. So they turned to Pueblito Guzmán, an 88-year-old woman with 10 children to model her movements and make a realistic portrait of a Mexican grandmother.

Finding Dory

Finding Dory takes place one year after Nemo's return to the reef and she has flashbacks of when she was a little girl with short-term memory problems who lived with her mother (Diane Keaton) and father (Eugene Levy). One day she got lost and started looking for her family. 

This animated movie shows the hard work of many designers who embraced technology to create scenes with thousands of fish and a rather funny and restless octopus. In the end, any designer may wonder: how did they achieve all this? This is definitely one of the films that crowned the creativity of Disney and Pixar.


It won the Oscar for Best Animated Film! In Zootopia there are more than 64 different species, which means that they animated one by one, each character with their mustaches, their fur, their clothes, their gestures, their expressions. Even some animators had to travel to Kenya to investigate the texture and movements of these animals in their habitat.

The visual section of this film is very careful, the size of the characters, the expressions, the settings, nothing is left to chance. The computer engineers of the studio developed software to create skins, this fact gave the creature designers a super precise control of the modeling, skin shading, colors and density of the mammals' coats.

Spirited Away

Get inspired by Spirited Away!

Spirited Away is a film that tells the adventure of a little girl who travels to her new home in the company of her parents. The family ends up getting lost in the middle of the journey and, when crossing a mysterious tunnel, experiences a fable filled with references about facing fears and maturing.

As a designer, you'll watch an impeccable technique with a touch of sensitivity. It is an invitation to return to the memories of childhood and appreciate the simplicity of all that is simple and beautiful. Take your time and get inspired!


This story is set in the 1930s. In the film, Hugo is a boy who lives hiding at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris. After losing his father, he inherits a mysterious robot.

The boy's routine happens between the fantastic escapes of the train station inspector and the friendly relationship with a girl. The girl, not by chance, is the bearer of the key (shaped like a heart) that fits like a glove in the robot.

To complete the magic and enchantment, the scenery couldn't fail to explore the aesthetics by the refined perfectionism of the movie. Along with all this, the plot shows the pioneering use of photographic effects in a beautiful, sensitive and very well-produced movie.

Coco Before Chanel

Fashion designers couldn't stay off our list either. The film "Coco Before Chanel" portrays the journey of the French designer and stylist to become one of the most important people in the history of the 20th century.

For those who wish to work with the fashion industry or not, the film is an important source of inspiration on how the best ideas can be found in our own daily lives and the role of creative thinking in changing the world.

The Grandmaster

The film tells us the story of Ip Man, a master of the Chinese martial arts -and more specifically of the Wing Chun style- and perhaps one of the most famous as the master of that myth was Bruce Lee. 

Visually speaking, 'The Grandmaster' is spectacular. All the elements are visually appealing to the minimum detail, not to mention the cold colors that predominate in the whole film to put us in that time before and after the second Chinese-Japanese war that took place between the years 1937 and 1945. 

Wong Kar-Wai uses here his best trump card when playing with the small aesthetic details -such as the shots of the bad women in brothels or the Chinese opera- and even that touch in which the martial arts stop being an art to become one more weapon to defeat the enemy by showing us the blood, the red that stands out among so much blue.


Written and directed by Spike Jonze, the main purpose of "Her" is to question our relationship with technology. In the plot, Joaquin Phoenix's character is a lonely writer who falls in love with an operating system, "played" by Scarlett Johansson. Something similar to the famous Siri and Alexa, developed by Apple and Amazon, respectively.

With impeccable photography and an intriguing perspective, "Her" takes advantage of the production design and its elements to imprison the viewer in a film in which one of the main characters appears only by voice.

And the production is not just a film for designers. For those interested in elements of interior design and architecture, the feature is also a full plate. Even the colors of the production and the decoration elements of the apartment explore and characterize Phoenix's emotional state.

Why Man Creates

Why Man Creates is a documentary by Saul Bass in 1968. It tackles creativity, trying to answer questions such as where creativity comes from and why it exists, and giving the viewer very interesting perspectives along the way. Humans have used their creativity to solve problems and create art for millennia. Bass says the reason for this is because we strive to represent ourselves in this world... to leave our mark on this world.

Your limitation is only your imagination

Being creative and becoming a great graphic designer is sometimes complicated, but if you have some good movies to hold on to, the muse will surely come to visit you sooner than you expect.

Contact us and we’ll help you with the creative side of your business!

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