Designing for art

Born in Saudi Arabia, artist Mehreen Murtaza’s work explores broad themes of human existence and the progresses of modern of civilization. In her digital art, Murtaza dissects consumption patterns, and attempts to understand the intersecting worlds of technology and nature…. By rejecting the traditional wasli, pen, and brush, and opting to use contemporary tools such as computers and cameras, she renews past forms. (from Artspace)

Mehreen Murtaza approached me to redesign her existing portfolio website; a request that soon became an intensive collaborative project which I greatly enjoyed thanks to the great respect I have for Mehreen’s practice as a contemporary artist.

Keeping this is mind, Mehreen asked for a design that was fundamentally user-friendly but retained her work’s essential qualities of being both technology-driven and nostalgic. We started with very broad themes exploring these key qualities, and ended with a DOS-inspired interface making the website’s UI an exercise in familiarity and challenging the limitations of such an interface.


Zahid Butt

We started with very broad themes exploring these key qualities and as the design evolved and simplified, the website’s UI became an exercise in familiarity and a challenge to utilize and overcome the limitations of such an interface.

See the process deck here.

Nostalgia meets technology
At this point in the process, the design had evolved into the UI of an unnamed operating system. The next step was to decide the character of the UI, and DOS was seen as a great starting point. With its text-based interface and pop-up screens, it was a great analogy of Mehreen’s retro-tech practice.

Iteration, iteration, iteration
Since the primary function of the website was to showcase Mehreen’s artwork, the “Work” section of the website was heavily worked on.

Multiple designs were tested to determine how the work should be categorized and displayed. From a text-only approach that was very true to DOS, the design became an a image-based UI where mini-screens resembling Mahjong tiles were used to show each project. This is done so that the user immediately jumps into Mehreen’s strong visuals without an added layer of text obscuring the view.

Keeping it responsive
The website is also designed to be responsive across devices.