RIYADH: Capturing ordinary scenes as whimsical moments, Saudi illustrator and product designer Layan Alhamed’s creativity is opening portals to new, imagined worlds.
From a young age, Alhamed wanted to do something creative, so she spent her days drawing, with art supplies scattered around her, creating treasures out of scrap materials and finding ways to create art from unlikely objects.
Although Alhamed graduated from Effat University with a bachelor’s degree in product design, her passion for visual creation and character development never left her.
While studying product design, she spent her days teaching herself how to visualize stories and share them with others.
Speaking about the creative process of product design, she told Arab News: “Getting into product design made me realize how broad the field is and how it satisfies all the creative energy I have. When designing products, you need to sketch, illustrate, brand, create mockups, and produce something tangible that people can experience.”
She added: “The feeling of seeing your first sketch of a preliminary idea and the final physical product is indescribable. That’s when I realized that art is a journey. It’s not always a smooth one but it’s worthwhile.”
During her studies, Alhamed found joy in merging the idea of play and product development — pop-up cupcake packaging, an interactive shelving unit, a transformable lamp, furniture that transforms into a tent and more.
I loved experimenting with interactivity and play a lot. This is when I realized that mundane everyday objects could have so much character in them too.
Layan Alhamed, Saudi illustrator
“I loved experimenting with interactivity and play a lot. This is when I realized that mundane everyday objects could have so much character in them too,” Alhamed said.
Her joy of merging play and product development together resulted in the creation of TINY, a 3D playful furniture piece designed for children between the ages of three to eight years old.
TINY is a functional product that merges the industry of play and furniture, engages children and allows them to use it for their activities, thus creating an outlet for self-expression and creativity.
“I wanted to play and test the idea of transforming a mundane object (a child’s seat) into something much more. It’s like a little secret magic box that transforms into what a child wants it to be,” Alhamed said.
“The product comes with ad-ons (Tiny Tent, Tiny, shop, Tiny Theater) with the intention of continuously developing creative ad-ons that can be easily installed.”
Alhamed, despite her youth, has worked on several projects, including designing a limited-edition puzzle in celebration of Saudi National Day, illustrating a children’s book, and illustrating designs for T-shirts.
She illustrates digitally when designing and developing a product, and the materials required depend on the project she is working on. As for color combination, it all depends on her mood.
“But the personal works closest to my heart will always be the spontaneous illustrations of characters on photos,” Alhamed said.
“The combination of photography and illustration is a new medium that I’ve been personally enjoying a lot. And it feels like they have always been part of the shot.”
Her surroundings also greatly influence her artworks, and her creativity and imagination imprint new stories on photographs that initially capture simple or mundane scenes: “Sometimes I come across a tiny coffee shop tucked away in a neighborhood, and I just feel that the place inspires me to create something … that’s when I started drawing on the photos I take.”
Speaking about what sparks her creative energy, she said: “Other times it’s a quote I randomly heard on a podcast, the beats of a music, a movie that spoke to my soul. It’s beautiful how all these little details can bring so many emotions and energy to give back to the world creatively.”
Alhamed works as a freelance illustrator and product designer, showcasing her projects and artworks on Instagram @layanalhamed_. She is represented by Radish House Agency, a boutique creative agency.
The young illustrator plans to continue refining her craft and to keep creating magic: “The possibilities are endless, and I would love to collaborate a lot more to bring these ideas to life.”