5 Things UX And UI Designers Could Learn From Wes Anderson

Lessons from the most meticulous filmmaker alive.

Director Wes Anderson has always been distinguished for his visual artistry, detail-rich sets, and storybook-like imagery. From the whimsical, campy feel of Moonrise Kingdom to the carefully crafted sets and miniatures in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s movies are visual masterpieces.


The design-conscious filmmaker has some practices in common with successful mobile user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers. Professional designers can learn to improve their apps by studying the director’s techniques and implementing such practices within their creative processes. Here are five key tips:

1. Pay attention to detail.
Anderson has been called the “most meticulous filmmaker alive.” That attention to detail is evident in his set design, color palettes, and typography. For The Grand Budapest Hotel, the director brought on graphic designer Annie Atkins who designed every artifact in the movie displaying type. To emulate an authentic feel for the film, Atkins used a real 1930s typewriter to create all the typewritten documents.

Fox Searchlight

For designers, attention to detail conveys a love for the end product. The tiniest specifics, like carefully placed elements and close examination of each pixel, allow the user to be completely immersed in the app experience. Equally, the level of detail shown in The Grand Budapest Hotel is what allows the audience to be immersed into an entirely different world. Designers who build captivating detail-filled apps can create an emotional connection with the end-user, one that truly engages the user and encourages brand loyalty.


2. Composition and symmetry matter.
One of the visual hallmarks of a Wes Anderson film is its symmetry. Korean filmmaker Kogonada expertly illustrates this by placing a centered white line atop numerous shots from Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Royal Tenenbaums, and other Wes Anderson films. This collection of scenes showcases the director’s talent for perfectly arranging disparate elements:

Like Anderson, mobile designers aim to build well-balanced compositional layouts and create visual order. Using grid structures helps achieve structural balance, and brings attention to visual cues and calls-to-action, so the user can quickly find desired content and be subconsciously pleased with the app’s overall look and feel.

3. Research guides the content.
Anderson conducts research with set designers in an iterative, creative process that allegedly starts with Google scouting to try and find striking locations. Every place he and his team visited for Moonrise Kingdom, whether online or in person, was an influence on the final design. The director even inserts photographs into his scripts for visual reference.

Kogonada via Vimeo

Mobile designers should also conduct methodical research. This might start by reviewing competitors successful apps and narrowing down features in their own app that can potentially be enhanced or even removed. Designers can also research different types of people who might use the app to help identify behavioral patterns, motivations, and pain points of potential users.

4. Be consistent with color palettes.
Wes Anderson Palettes is a blog that showcases the brilliant color schemes the director uses in his films. The colorations in his fictional worlds are usually highly saturated, which creates a dream-like feel. Consider the example below where the colors (reds and blues) are fully saturated and beautifully contrasted by background elements.

Philippe Antonello/Buena Vista Pictures

In a study titled “Impact of Color in Marketing,” researchers found that up to 90% of judgments about products are based solely on color. Mobile designers leverage color to strategically brand and position mobile apps and to tap into users’ emotions. Designers should spend time experimenting with color palettes.


5. Focus on storytelling.
Anderson is undoubtedly a storyteller, using wit and stunning visual imagery to tell non-traditional stories. Though the director has admitted that a number of his films, “don’t really have a plot,” they all tell a tale within perfectly crafted microcosms.

Fox Searchlight

Mobile designers should see the big picture of an app and simultaneously understand that its value lies in every interaction the consumer has with it. Successful apps are often the byproduct of detailed user and use case research. Take a recommendation app, for example: a UI/UX designer should consider the app as a tool aligned with the users’ needs, desires, and behaviors, and design a product to be helpful around specific use cases. Interaction designer Shlomo Goltz observes, “Personas are intertwined with goals, and scenarios, all of which relate to one another in same way the main character, plot, and objective do in a novel or movie.”

Designers within any medium should look to creative geniuses for inspiration. Mobile designers who want to maximize their app’s design and function can gain valuable insights from the groundbreaking work of Wes Anderson to create visually arresting work that grabs and holds users’ attention.


About the author

Sumit Mehra is the Chief Technology Officer of Y Media Labs, a San Francisco-area based app design and development agency. He is the visionary behind Y Media Labs' engineering team and has grown the company to over 120+ employees since its inception in 2009


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