×

Southern California-Shot ‘Silicon Valley’ Goes for a Bay Area Look

While “Silicon Valley” co-creator Mike Judge and showrunner Alec Berg have been devising the outlandish goings-on and shenanigans on the hit HBO comedy, production designer Richard Toyon and his right-hand woman, art director Oana Bogdan, have been busy making the interiors and exteriors look exactly like those in the actual Silicon Valley.

Although the show is shot in Southern California, “we wanted to keep an aesthetic based on the real Northern California companies we’re emulating,” says Bogdan, who’s nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy for her art direction on the show’s third season (she’s been nominated twice before for her work on FX’s “Justified”).

“Early on, we took a field trip to visit tech companies,” she says. They attended the Bay Area’s Tech Crunch, the annual convention where up-and-coming products and software are presented to would-be investors. The core art team spent three days visiting the likes of GitHub, Dropbox, Yelp, and Facebook. The images they came back with informed the Silicon Valley they created for TV.

They also partnered with vendors through product-placement deals to gather the show’s physical artifacts, such as its height-adjustable Varidesks. And in the most recent season’s opener, the robotic deer that Thomas Middledich’s character hits with his car was crafted by Google’s Boston Dynamics unit.

Popular on Variety

Toyon, who has a background in architecture and landscape architecture, took home an Emmy for the show last year. Bogdan got the call to be his second-in-command after the previous person in that role, L.J. Houdyshell, was promoted to the role of production designer on CBS’ “Cold Black.”

Bogdan points out that Toyon has been working with Judge and Berg for three seasons, “so they’ve developed a shorthand where Richard often knows what Mike and Alec will be looking for in each design he conceives.” The communication trickles down to the entire art department, Bogdan adds, “from art director down to production assistants.”

Romania-born Bogdan has worked in film and TV since 1994, and was wrapping up the first season of WGN’s “Underground,” about the Civil War-era Underground Railroad, when she got the call for “Silicon Valley,” which is set in a time period that’s in stark contrast to the antebellum South. She jumped at the chance to add variety to her work.

“[On ‘Underground’] I was creating low-tech, hand-wrought, analog looks,” she says. “Now I get to capture cutting-edge technology and concepts not even on the market yet. I love having a range in the types of projects I’m involved with.”

More Artisans

  • Shaun the sheep

    How '80s Sci-Fi Films Inspired 'Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon'

    Shaun, everyone’s favorite sheep, is back, and this time he’s facing aliens and robots in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.” Directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan teamed together on this film for their first full-length collaboration. While the two have been working at Aardman Studios, Phelan’s background was as a story artist and Becher’s [...]

  • Emma Movie 2020

    Opulence and Frugality Inform the Look of the Latest Take on Jane Austen's 'Emma'

    Jane Austen’s “Emma” is a world of elegance and refinement; its story centers on class distinction and the power of vanity, and how those cause tension between friends and lovers. The challenge for costumer Alexandra Byrne and production designer Kave Quinn to help director Autumn de Wilde deliver her vision of the classic, which hits [...]

  • Avenue 5 HBO

    How 'Avenue 5' Set Designer Used 3D Tech to Create Spaceship Locales

    Simon Bowles designed the massive set of the Judd spaceship on HBO’s “Avenue 5” with one central thought in mind: It doesn’t matter how beautiful an environment is when you realize you might be trapped in it forever. “I’ve designed these types of enclosed spaces before,” says the production designer, who collaborated with series creator [...]

  • Diane Warren poses for a portrait

    Dear Diane Warren: Here's How to Win a Best Original Song Oscar in 2021

    Dear Diane Warren, We’re sad. When you didn’t win the best original song Oscar on Sunday’s telecast, it was like we too had been handed our 11th rejection in a row. We’ve been on this journey with you, and gosh darn it, your time to be “Academy Award winner Diane Warren” is long overdue. In [...]

  • The New Pope HBO

    Italian Casting Agents Hit the Streets for Fresh Talent for Shows Like 'The New Pope'

    When Paolo Sorrentino needed a new conclave of cardinals for HBO’s “The New Pope,” his specialized casting agent Alessandra Troisi sent a team combing through Rome’s community centers for senior citizens who, she says, are the “biggest reservoirs” from which high-ranking prelates get picked.   For cloistered nuns, Swiss Guards and papal chair-lifters, instead they [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content