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Designing Art and Space with Emotion

An Interview with Designer Maha Alamri

Designer Maha Alamri shares how emotion creates compelling spaces in art and architecture.


"When I... discovered my passion for architecture and design, it added value to my art skills. I learned how to play with color palettes and create emotions as one would when designing a space."

Maha Alamri - I am currently a graduate student at the University of Maryland pursuing my Master’s degree in Architecture. I completed my Bachelor’s degree at George Washington University in Interior Architecture and Design. Over the years, I worked at different interior design firms and focused my attention on high-end residential design.

I have been into art for as long as I can remember. Growing up I loved drawing characters and creating stories for them. After getting into Japanese animation and comic books, I started illustrating people and drawing portraits, and developed my art direction from there. 

When I started my Bachelor’s degree and discovered my passion for architecture and design, it added value to my art skills. I learned how to play with color palettes and create emotions as one would when designing a space. Architecture and illustration have a lot of similarity - creating a story for viewers to experience and then build on that story with their imagination. That is how I approach my design, whether in architecture or illustration.

Exploring themes of space and vision.

What inspires your art? What are you looking to share with others through your art?

Emotions inspire me. Art is a way to convey the artist’s emotions - how they view the world or what they are feeling at the time. My art is a visual diary of my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes there isn’t a specific purpose but rather an emotion I want to share. Sometimes I have a specific goal and want to share my view on the topic, such as feminism in Arab culture.

Sharing stories through my art.

I like to share stories. If it’s a girl in bed, what is she doing? Why is she in her room? What does the expression on her face mean? There is no right or wrong answer, I want people to let their minds wander and see my art the way they would interpret it.

Many days I get sudden bursts of inspiration and start drawing whatever I feel or comes to mind. I like to move through different mediums. I can be painting on a giant canvas one day, and sketching with a pencil on a small piece of paper the next. This is one of the main reasons I appreciate Concepts - the infinite canvas space, versatility and user-friendly interface. I can take my iPad anywhere, and whenever inspiration hits, I have this tool with me to draw on.

Conveying emotion through color and line.

Congratulations on your recent video for V Magazine! Would you be willing to share with us about how you created the video? What was your creative process for outlining and then producing the video?

Thank you so much! You can watch the video here. At first, I started by revisiting the original Daft Punk “One More Time” music video. I analyzed the style and storyline and tried to build a narrative from there. My inspiration for the video came from being quarantined for a while and using my imagination to escape to a different world. I wanted to build on the original storyline, and take Gigi back to the planet from the original music video where she flies through space and meets the planet’s inhabitants. The storyline changed multiple times throughout the process, and I kept the story purposefully loose to allow the viewers' imagination drive the story.

Gigi's character journey.

I’m fascinated with nostalgia and space, so I wanted to give viewers the feeling of remembering a faint dream or memory with hidden symbolisms. For example, I used the flying whale because it symbolizes freedom of creativity. Keeping the inner child alive is important when it comes to appreciating life, and that was the drive for the storyline. Being in quarantine can be mentally draining at times, and that little bit of childhood imagination can be useful in helping us to cope with these difficult times. Often we think of dreams as fiction, but that doesn’t mean they're any less important than reality. Our imagination is an integral part of creating a colorful and joyous world.

Illustrating scenes for the music video.

With these ideas in mind, the story began to flow naturally as I was developing it. I found it helpful to play out the entire scenario in my head, and imagine what it would be like to be in it. I would then roughly sketch it out and see how all the scenes looked together. When I liked the translation of the scenes from mind to paper, I would start drawing and finalizing the illustrations.

What tools did you use to draw and animate your video? How did you use Concepts to help your artistic goals?

I used Concepts on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil for creating both the rough storylines and final illustrations for the video. I then used Photoshop to fine-tune some of the illustrations. I love that Concepts has vector and PNG conversion tools, it allowed the transition from iPad to Adobe Cloud to go smoothly. I used Adobe After Effects for creating the animations, and edited the video in Final Cut Pro. I like that Concepts remembers the same drawing settings throughout my project file so I don’t have to reset it each time. It helped me move through the project quicker.

Working on animations.

Concepts especially helped me to build on stories and concepts in the design process phase. For both my personal and academic projects, I use Concepts to sketch quick and loose diagrams that develop into floorplans and sections, then into final renderings. The design process is incredibly important when producing a finished project, and Concepts helps me with that. It always amazes me when I’m looking back at how one simple sketch develops into an entire finished project. Seeing that whole process helps me improve for my next project.

This design workflow is part of my thesis project on Islamic architecture and spirituality.

Another design workflow from my thesis project.

Do you have any advice or tips for other artists looking to discover, create and share their voices?

Keep a lookout for announcements about competitions you might be interested in. Talk to other artists and network with people even outside the art industry. Also, most importantly, keep doing what you love, have fun with it, and be patient.


Maha Alamri is passionate about art and architecture. Growing up in the Middle East, she had the opportunity to travel and be in a diverse community which influenced her artistic style today. Maha uses different mediums of art to express herself. Her goal is to advocate for biophilic and sustainable designs that celebrate beauty and culture. Find her work on her website and follow her on Instagram.

Interview by Erica Christensen


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