Rui Ma gets emotional with a series of poster designs that visualise joy, sadness and fear

Rui Ma is an award-winning senior designer based in Los Angeles who focuses on graphic design, art direction, and digital. With a passion for illustration and fashion, her work incorporates bold, dynamic type and art, along with energetic colours that spark emotions.

A recent project, which happens to be called Emotions, explores how feelings might look if you could visualise them as an artist. The posters represent four types of everyday human responses – joy, anger, sadness, and fear – each one in English and Chinese, expressed using Raoul Audouin's Velvetyne font. Together, they reveal a connection between what we might be experiencing inside along with what we're communicating through our facial expressions.

"The design was created in its grid with abstract illustrations, vibrant colours, and strong typography," explains Rui. "Each visual language works as individual designs on its own. At the same time, all the poster designs work as a system."

Emotion is a common theme in Rui's work, as she draws inspiration from life. You know, the real gut-wrenching encounters, the highs and lows of our everyday existence. For this particular project, Rui says she was inspired after reading several psychology books. "When I realised how emotions could be interesting and complicated, a question came to my mind: What would emotions look like in the visual world?"

She adds: "Emotions can be abstract and also representational at the same time. The challenge of the project was how to visualise emotions in playful and contemporary design and illustration styles." Apparently, the real challenge also came during her research phase: "Would people have the same facial expressions when they have certain emotions?" asks Rui. "Surprisingly, the answer is yes globally, according to online sources from scientists."

Asked whether she has a certain style she can describe, Rui doesn't reveal anything, as she doesn't want to limit her creativity. "But I definitely like dynamic and colourful designs that would make people happy when they see it," she says. "And, of course, design with meaningful and playful thoughts behind it. I like to follow trends but not follow trends. It is always good to learn what good design and art are currently out there, but it is also really important to keep my work different and unique."


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