Inside Entertainment Design: Q&A with Art Director Rafael Van Winkel

The importance of entertainment design has always been a big focus here at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. Understanding the components and techniques of a successful entertainment campaign is crucial for any designer entering the industry, especially in California. At first glance it’s easy to think that entertainment design is all about designing movie posters and creating billboards, but that is simply the tip of the iceberg.

As a new ongoing series on the FIDM Digital Arts Blog, Art Director Rafael Van Winkel is going to help us dig deeper into the world of entertainment design by shedding some light on interesting things he has seen in the industry. Topics might include typography trends on certain genres of movies, special packaging (collector edition’s DVDs and Blu-ray) versus standard packaging, the difference between designing a movie poster and a home entertainment key art, creative things you can do with the disc labels, the process from design to finishing art, and much more.

Before diving into all of those exciting details of the industry, let’s get to know Van Winkel a bit better.

(FIDM Digital Arts) Can you tell us a little about your background and career path leading up to working at Art Machine?

Rafael van Winkel - Art Director at Art Machine

Rafael van Winkel – Art Director at Art Machine

(Rafael) “I learned a lot from freelancing back at home. It started as a hobby, a curious kid clicking around on image editing software doing my own little projects, until later on I realized I could do this for the rest of my life. It was something I developed and practiced since such an early age. I had so much fun with it that I didn’t even realize it could be a career until I was 18 or so. After my bachelors, I decided to move to Los Angeles to study graphic design and focus my career on entertainment design. I built a strong portfolio over the years and went for a few interviews. Art Machine hired me and I’ve been working here as an Art Director for almost 3 years now.”

Art Machine does some really high quality work, what is your current role at the company?

“As an Art Director, my role is to create art for movie advertising materials and packaging. I also work with production, which can be a bit more technical, like creating a full DVD/Blu-ray campaign including sleeve/wrap, disc label, inserts, stickers, etc. It’s good to be able to switch gears from designing a movie key art to producing the actual piece where that art will be displayed on, such as a packaging piece, a magazine ad, a poster, etc.”

Do you have any favorite projects you have worked on? 

“I get to work on really great projects and movies I’m actuality a fan of. I had a great time working on ‘The Lego Movie.’ It was a big campaign and we got to design all the packaging and most of the advertising materials for it. I also really liked designing this texturized shield art for a ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’ 10th Anniversary steel book that ended up as a special release in some countries in Europe and Asia. The art printed in the metal Blu-Ray case looks great.”


"The Lego Movie" - Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel

“The Lego Movie” – Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel


Have you ever had a moment in your career where you’ve felt like you’ve failed in some way? If so, how did you move past it?

“Absolutely. I think in every creative career we set a high bar on what we want to achieve. As designers we’re always trying to do our best and learn from each project. Working in the entertainment field can be very challenging and fast paced. Sometimes we don’t have enough time to ‘finish’ our art like we planned to and that can be a bummer. We also have to learn not to be too attached with our own comps. It’s not our decision if it will be selected or not, and even if you spent a lot of time designing something extraordinary, it may not be the right fit in a marketing point of view. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad designer; you just need a bit more experience to develop a better sense of what the client is expecting and what’s acceptable beyond that.”

We also have to learn not to be too attached with our own comps. It’s not our decision if it will be selected or not, and even if you spent a lot of time designing something extraordinary, it may not be the right fit in a marketing point of view.

Without getting into too much detail, what are some aspects of designing for entertainment that might be different than traditional branding?

“Designing for entertainment is very detail oriented. To work in this field you usually need a good knowledge of photo retouching and manipulation, probably more than in any other design field. It’s common to find small color or masking mistakes when you’re putting different photos together and creating a scene or a cool environment, so attention to detail is crucial. It’s a good mix of being creative but also being able to execute it as neatly as possible.”


Kingdom of Heaven - Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel

Kingdom of Heaven – Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel


Where do you draw inspiration from? Any recommended websites or places you frequently visit?

“I have a thing for movie posters so I’m constantly checking out IMP Awards. It’s also important for my job to keep informed of what’s being released. Packaging in general also inspires me a lot. I like to visit Packaging Of The World every now and then. They have some very interesting packaging concepts there with exquisite typography.”

If you weren’t in this field, is there anything else you could see yourself doing?

“I always thought publication design would be an interesting area to explore. I did some small projects in that realm, but I always wondered how it would be to design a magazine spread or something on that spectrum. I also love music. Album covers/booklets always fascinated me. I used to design them for fun as a kid, creating my own music collections. Definitely want to experience that professionally one day.”


Pacific Rim - Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel

Pacific Rim – Art Direction by Rafael van Winkel

What is your favorite thing to do in your down time?

“After a long work day I like to relax my mind by being active and exercising, either taking a long walk, going to the gym or a workout class. It puts my brain into a different mode and makes the creative fluids run easier on the next day.”

Do you have any advice for new students wanting to get their foot in the door in the graphic design industry?

“School assignments can end up as great portfolio pieces, so take your courses seriously. If somebody is teaching design, it is because they love it. They notice when a student shows interest and works hard. Get as much feedback as you can in class and build a strong portfolio with emphasis on the field you want to get into. Study your options, potential companies, see what they’re currently doing and show you can be a good fit for the team.”

Get as much feedback as you can in class and build a strong portfolio with emphasis on the field you want to get into.

From his humble beginnings “clicking around software” as a freelancer to becoming Art Director at leading entertainment design agency Art Machine, Van Winkel demonstrates how if someone has a passion for a certain niche and puts their mind to it, the results will come. If you enjoyed this article, please keep checking back for more “Inside Entertainment Design” with Rafael Van Winkel.

graphic-design-entertainmentStart college and kickstart your career in entertainment graphics.

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising isn’t just a recognized leader in the study of design and creative business– we’re a training ground for the exciting career in graphic design you’ve always dreamed of pursuing. No other graphic design program has the same unique focus on the entertainment industry, teaching techniques of a successful entertainment campaign including extensive research to create and develop theatrical key art for the entertainment industry.


FIDM: Creative Careers Begin Here

Creative careers begin here.

With four California campuses located in the heart of the fashion and entertainment industries, FIDM is a leading, accredited college offering specialized Associate of Arts and Bachelor’s of Arts degrees. FIDM has been educating students with creative and leadership skills for the global industries of fashion, visual arts, interior design, and entertainment for more than 45 years. Learn more at

The FIDM Digital Arts Blog is dedicated to professional and aspiring graphic designers and filmmakers, illustrating the range of career opportunities within these fields written by FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. See more at

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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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