Breaking Down the Artistic Choices Behind the Production Design of ‘Glass Onion,’ ‘Severance’ and More Art Directors Guild Nominees

Artisans apply expert eye to the work of their peers.

(from left) Reggie Fabelman (Julia Butters) and Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) in The Fabelmans, co-written, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.
Merie Weismiller Wallace/Univers


The Fabelmans

Production Designer: Rick Carter

By Chuck Parker

In Steven Spielberg’s film about his childhood and finding his identity as an artist, pictured above, the challenge for Rick Carter and his crew was how to tell the story visually. He used the Fableman family’s three homes as primary reference points, with their different architectural styles and decorative elements adding nuance as the family moves from one house to another — with each member progressing through his or her own story.

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Marvel Studios


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Production Designer: Hannah Beachler

By John Iacovelli

Hanna Beachler fully realized civilizations writ new with the invention of whole new technologies. We see stunning visuals with textures, colors and a dynamic language that is both a fantasy and somehow entirely believable. She and her team have designed a mature and progressive world of the imagination that exists in the present, in the nation of Wakanda and in a glorious world below the sea — backed by an international and massive art department that supports her imagination for a story that breaks out of the comic book and onto the big screen.

‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection ©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection


Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs

By Nelson Coates

Seamlessly transitioning from location, to stage, to VFX, is a hallmark of the inventive Rick Heinrichs and his team, who create the ultimate “destination,” while giving intrigue and multilayered character touches to the complex puzzle of this murder mystery. They use the visual metaphor of onion layers manifested in the impressive resort’s architecture to peel and reveal the true motivations of the guests. The production design choices combine to create a strong sense of place — and to service the narrative all the way to a shattering conclusion.

Guillermo Del Toro on the set of ‘Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio’ Jason Schmidt/NETFLIX


Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Production Designers: Curt Enderle, Guy Davis

By Judy Cosgrove

Guy Davis and Curt Enderle guided a team of designers, craftspeople and animation artists in Portland, Ore., Guadalajara, Mexico, and Altrincham, England. The director’s goal was to create a movie that has the expressiveness and material nature of a hand-made piece of animation that is a beautiful artisanal exercise in carving, painting and sculpting, but which incorporates a new sophistication of movement made possible by extensive research on rigs and puppetry — achieving new heights in stop-motion animation.



Pachinko: “Chapter One”

Production Designer: Mara Lepere-Schloop

By Dave Blass

“Pachinko” navigates an immersive journey of three distinct eras: 1915 Korea during the Japanese occupation, 1989 New York in high finance and Osaka around the same era. Each period has its own feel so that its captivating environment engrosses you, and you know right where you are. Production design plays a key role in depicting the world of Busan and captures the vibrancy and hope of main character Sunja’s life. Her parents’ boarding house reflects the poverty of being left penniless due to the country’s occupation while retaining a warm, inviting atmosphere.

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ Courtesy of Prime Video


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: “Adar”

Production Designer: Ramsey Avery

By Claire Bennett

What a challenge to bring this world to life in a fresh, vibrant way yet keep it familiar for fans. Ramsey Avery successfully gives us lands that are beautifully majestic and thriving. His clever use of textures works wonderfully with the costumes, and the lighting offers us a rich visual experience. The Orcs’ prison camp in the “Adar” episode has irregular-shaped pieces of burlap, muslin and aged, stained skin-like fabric stretched across the roof; they are lit from above with an amber hue so the frayed ropes and rough texture of the fabric help create a dramatic, foreboding setting.



Severance: “Good News About Hell”

Production Designer: Jeremy Hindle

By Adam Rowe

What’s not to love about the way scenery is used to inform a puzzle and frame a mystery in “Severance?” Endless white hallways oddly entice seduction. Sparseness and wide spaces are not wasted but carefully orchestrated. Organization, line work and symmetrical rhythms evoke nostalgia and perpetuate continuous questioning: “Where the hell is this story taking place?” Homes are darkly manicured, curious places set-dressed with hyper attention. Each object matters and deepens the puzzle.

‘Station Eleven’ HBO Max


Station Eleven

Production Designer:  Ruth Ammon

By Thomas A. Walsh

Making the ordinary extraordinary whether it be a person, place, or thing. Storytelling and visuals that move seamlessly forward and backward in time. All are fantastic and painfully real in this nightmare journey towards survival. The design team was tasked with visualizing a world gone very dark while reinforcing truth wherever it can be found. Noble rot can also manifest hope and beauty. Bravo to all for creating a picture not dependent on huge sci-fi budgets while making it appear alive, real and compelling. 

‘Only Murders In The Building’ HULU


Only Murders in the Building: “Framed”

Production Designer: Patrick Howe        

By Korey Washington

With New York’s Arconia building, Patrick Howe has masterfully created a detailed scenic environment in which a few layers get peeled back in this flashback-dotted episode. The reveal this season is the catacomb sets throughout the building, including hidden elevators and voyeuristic peepholes. His use of pattern stacking in walls and furniture textures paints a specific vision of our septuagenarian characters. He continues to take us on a scenic ride yet still peels back more layers with each episode.

‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ Michael Yarish / CBS


Bob (Hearts) Abishola: “Inner Boss Bitch,” “Two Rusty Tractors,” “Estee Lauder and Goat Meat”

Production Designer: Francoise Cherry-Cohen

By Madeline O’Brien

“Bob (Hearts) Abishola’s” fourth season brings to the screen vibrant sets that perfectly match the energy of this hilarious sitcom. From the office of an “Inner Boss Bitch,” dripping in color, to an industrial bar dazzling with Edison bulbs, there’s always a feast for the viewer. If not for the laugh track, one would almost forget it’s a multicam show due to the excellent use of foreground elements and the dynamic layouts of sets. Cherry-Cohen showcases a mastery of texture and materials by giving even a barren warehouse the same warmth seen throughout the show.

‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ Ali P. Goldstein/HBO


A Black Lady Sketch Show: “Anybody Have Something I Can Flog Myself With?” “Bounce Them Coochies, Y’All!” “Peaches and Eggplants for Errbody!”

Production Designers:  Michele Yu and Cindy Chao

By Miranda Cristofani

Yu and Chao deliver varied and dynamic environments with limited resources and a tiny crew. Sets range from a soap opera-esque “Real Housewives” mansion, to a crazy singles mixer hall, to a gothic styled living room, and are filled with comic details and meaningful references. In the jewelry heist sketch, the paintings are by Black female artists and the outfits from black female stylists — celebrating Black women’s creativity. If you look close enough you can see through-lines of a cinematic universe with an overarching mythical interconnection of the characters and each sketch in every set. 


American Horror Stories: “Dollhouse” Promo

Production Designer: Marc Benacerraf

By Oana Bogdan Miller

To attract viewers to the new “Dollhouse” series, Marc Benacerraf achieves gorgeous spaces and intricate beats showcasing both the familiar and the striking. This commercial is rich in hyper-saturated color, texture and grit, invoking unease while the camera jerks us through various theatrical scenes of disturbing doll machinations in jealousy, deception, murder and mayhem. We travel through walls from morgue lab to bathroom, parlor to attic – then comes the surprise ending as the camera pulls out to see that all this has fit into a miniature dollhouse. 


Adele “I Drink Wine”

Production Designer: Liam Moore

By Denny Dugally

Floating on a twisting river of fantasy, in a Valentino gown, clutching a bottle of wine and a glass, Adele breaks our hearts in this semi-autobiographical video. And just as she tugs on our emotions, Liam Moore creates detailed tableaux bursting with sensuality, expressing all the emotions of Adele’s song with a rainbow of light, color and sound. To watch Liam’s work on this and other videos is to watch a master who loves to play with all the crayons in the box, understanding that each one evokes a different emotion.