Many of you have told us how much you like the Pottermore artwork, so we thought you might enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how it was created. We spoke to the Atomhawk Design team, who were responsible for creating the Pottermore illustrations, and in this post (the first of two) we’re going to look at how they went about creating the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor crests.
Behind the scenes: The Pottermore House Crests
In the beginning
The starting point for each of the house crests was the Hogwarts crest, which first appeared on the title pages of the Harry Potter books, and represents all four Hogwarts houses. This original artwork and J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of the houses were used to inspire four unique house emblems for Pottermore.
The artists started by talking about the best way to include the natural elements of fire, earth, water and air into each house; what the best positions and expressions for the animals would be; and the most effective way to include the house colours in the final designs.
Their main aim all the way through the process was to make the crests into symbols that Sorted Pottermore users would be proud to display as a token of their Pottermore identity.
To start with, three versions were sketched for each house crest. The team then looked at each variation to make absolutely sure the details and attributes of each house were clearly represented. The design they felt was the strongest out of the three was selected to go through to the next stage of the process, which involved adding colour to the designs.
Ravenclaw sketch series
For Ravenclaw, the artists tried to stay true to the form of an eagle but they found it didn’t work at times; the centre sketch, for example, was thought to look too much like a gull. As the eagle has been used in mythology throughout history, the artists were also aware that it could be difficult to make their eagle instantly recognisable and original. After the sketches were finished, everyone agreed that the pose with wings outstretched was the best. They felt that the image of the bird going outside the borders of the crest showed Ravenclaw at its strongest: an eagle unbound by the borders of the shield and ready to take flight.
Gryffindor sketch series
As the lion is another symbol often found in popular culture, the team again needed to focus on creating a recognisable one for the Gryffindor house crest. For all four of the crests the facial expressions of the animals were used to symbolise house traits (in this case courage and chivalry). As you can see in the sketches above, the artists were trying to capture the expression of a lion waiting to attack, as well as one that was mid-roar.
After the initial sketches were examined it was decided that the head of the lion, with its strong face and striking mane, was the best design as the crest showing the body seemed to take away from the lion’s powerful features.
Hufflepuff sketch series
The Hufflepuff crest proved to be the most difficult creation for the team. There is a limited amount of detail about Hufflepuff house in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and they were aware that they needed to work a little harder to make the crest feel authentic and representative of the Hufflepuff nature. There was also the question of how to show the badger as a tenacious animal, to show Hufflepuffs as unafraid of hard work.
In the first crest you can see the badger almost resting on a bed of leaves, but the team felt this version looked too approachable and inactive. The drawing in which the badger is facing forwards didn’t look enough like a traditional crest and also made the animal appear too gentle. It was finally decided that the badger that was the most faithful to the Hufflepuff house qualities was the one on all fours, posed as if defending its territory and warning off others.
Slytherin sketch series
The art team tried out a number of different snakes for the Slytherin crest, as they wanted to ensure the one they used didn’t resemble a particular type of serpent (such as a boa or a cobra). The coil of the tail was another focal point as the artists wanted the snake to look natural, but not inactive.
Ravenclaw colour process
Interestingly, Ravenclaw was the only house for which the team did not create a number of colour options. The first colour design became the final version of the crest as they immediately felt that they had it right. They added blue to the swirling air element in the background, then coloured the eagle bronze. Once they placed it within the polished silver framework of the crest they felt they had got the spirit of Ravenclaw in one go!
Gryffindor colour process
The crests for the first Gryffindor colour designs were treated with a gold and scarlet colour palette. Then the background designs were looked at closely, so that the fire element could be shown in the most striking way. The art team agreed that the best version was the one that used the full red background but they felt it still needed the strength of the fire displayed in the other designs.
The twitching tail that escapes the boundaries of the crest in the first two images was judged to be too much of a distraction from the power of the lion’s attacking stance and the fearsome expression on its face, so it was removed from the final version.
Hufflepuff colour process
In the artwork above, the yellow background was slightly muted to add some focus, but the team decided to brighten the final versions to make the badger as striking as possible. The silhouette of the badger was thought to be stronger when the entire body could be seen completely surrounded by yellow.
Slytherin colour process
The team tried a variety of green snakes within the crest – the pattern of the skin was changed a number of times to try and achieve the right effect. For example, in the third version you can see a diamond pattern (such as an adder would have).
In the end, because they wanted to stay true to the house colours of green and silver, the team set to work designing a snake that looked like it had been created by a silversmith. They felt this brought the whole crest to life, especially when combined with the green ripples in the background, designed to accentuate the water element.
The final crests
The final design for the Ravenclaw house crest shows blue air currents around the bronzed eagle, while the Gryffindor house crest focuses on the golden lion’s powerful face, its raised paw, and the scarlet flames flickering behind.
The Hufflepuff crest was finished with a strong vibrant yellow and patterned leaves to symbolise the earth element. The badger looks as if it is already hard at work, with its stance showing that it’s ready for action. (A piece of trivia to note: the head of the Atomhawk Design team was sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore and says he is very proud of his crest!).
Some of the Pottermore Slytherin community have already noticed that theirs is the only animal looking to the left, while the other house crests have animals looking to the right. This was a decision that came about during the final stages of design, when the crests were all placed together.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Atomhawk Design for sharing the design process of the house crests with us and we hope you enjoyed this sneak peak behind the scenes of Pottermore.