Raised in the Arab world exposes you to a very different visual experience from the rest of the world. There is something specific about the visual culture of the Middle East and how people express their creativity within that culture, it comes from a long history of culture and art mixing. Religion also has played a big part in shaping that visual culture and moulding it to become something of its own, different, yet art. One of the main impacts religion had is the banning of representations of people whether in painting or sculpting. This was an important step because it led art in the region in a completely different direction. This led to the ruling powers, who commissioned most of the art, to look for an alternative type of art, which led to the growth of geometry and calligraphy in the art and developed to reach unprecedented stages in their complexity and beauty. As an artist who grew up in the Arab world and impacted greatly by that visual culture, I also find a lot of beauty in geometry and calligraphy, and so I wanted to use this experiment as an opportunity to create a DIY object that celebrates that form of art.

Left to right: 1. Window patterns from Sheikh Lotfullah Mosque in Iran. 2. Intricate geometric patterns in Imam Hussein Mosque in Iraq. 3. Arabic calligraphy from Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. 4. Arabic calligraphy from Al Hambra in Spain.
Left to right: 1. Window patterns from Sheikh Lotfullah Mosque in Iran. 2. Intricate geometric patterns in Imam Hussein Mosque in Iraq. 3. Arabic calligraphy from Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. 4. Arabic calligraphy from Al Hambra in Spain.

My object is an incense burner, that has an Arabic/Islamic geometry pattern laser cut, in order to let the aroma of the incense sticks spread in the room. The reason I chose an incense burner is the fact that it is used in so many Middle Eastern houses and has been for generations. The burner has a lot of significance; it can be for religious purposes as inviting good energy (or spirits), or it can be for health purposes since many aromas have health benefits if inhaled, or it can also be for simply perfuming the room. In any case, incense burners are usually very decorated with more or less traditional designs.


Method of Dissemination

Link to my project

I decided to use Instructables as my dissemination tool because of its popularity in the DIY field and its detailed professional approach to DIY projects. The site has thousands of designs created by all kinds of professionals and hobbyists.

Instructables page
Instructables page

Instructables has a very functional design layout and method of showing information. It divides the page into steps, with images to support the text, and links to downloadable files that are placed near the relevant information. This makes much easier for the users to access and follow the instructions step by step.

Instructables is also one of the most important DIY sites today. It has a lot of traffic and credibility in the DIY field.

Instructables does not handle images very well. Editing the images to fit the layout of the page is important and proved to be time-consuming because uploading to the servers takes time.

Also, Instructables allows very limited editing to the layout, so I felt constrained by the tool.

DIY Files

Rendered image of all 4 designs
High resolution rendered image of all 4 designs
4 ready designs!
4 ready designs!

For this step of IncenseBurn, I decided to expand the scope of this project. The main limitation of the first attempt was the limitation of the design, only one design was available and people had to stick to this design. This time however, I decided to create three more designs that are rendered and tested to make sure they can go through the laser cutter without any deformations. I also added an editor, which allows the users to edit the designs that I provide.  Finally, I also added a Pattern Builder file, which has detailed instructions on how to create custom patterns and create a new IncenseBurn design. So, the downloadable files are now 6 files: 

  1. Pattern 1

    Pattern 1
    Pattern 1
  2. Pattern 2

    Pattern 2
    Pattern 2
  3. Pattern 3

    Pattern 3
    Pattern 3
  4. Pattern 4

    Pattern 4
    Pattern 4
  5. Editor

    Pattern Editor - Interface
    Pattern Editor – Interface
  6. Pattern Builder
    Pattern Builder Interface
    Pattern Builder Interface

    Pattern Builder - Layers
    Pattern Builder – Layers


The goal for creating IncenseBurn boxes is to allow users to not only rely on purchasing things they need but also have the option of building many things using tools that they can have access to. Initially, IncenseBurn was a single design incense box, which allowed users to avoid buying a new one and instead make one for very cheap.

In addition to that, I wanted to raise the scope for this project in order to give it a longer life online, and allow the users to have some fun with creating their own IncenseBurn box. So, by adding more designs and a tool that gives the users the freedom to create any design, IncenseBurn will be able to be relevant for more people over a longer period of time.

Design Process

Geometric Patterns
For this version of IncenseBurn, I widened the options for the geometric patterns. Previously, I decided to use Islamic patterns, which now I added to several other options that can relate to more people globally.

From left to right is the process I went through to draw this pattern.
From left to right is the process I went through to draw this pattern.

The patterns I created for the ready-made files are based on simple geometric shapes that are repeated and overlayed until it reached a level of complexity I was happy with. I attempted to widen my styles as much as possible in order to fit as many people’s needs as possible. I also wanted to use the pattern builder tool to make those patterns and so all those patterns are made using the pattern building tool provided in the package.

DIY User Experience

The DIY experience I wanted for this iteration is much more complex and rich than the previous one. The reason is that I wanted to add customization to my approach, which takes a lot of trial and error. So, after trying several different approaches on how I want to deliver this DIY project to as many people as possible is to use visuals, simple instructions, and friendly design. 

For the ready designs, simple 3-step instructions, supported by simple visuals to communicate the messages clearly and quickly.

A graphic instructions guide for the DIY project
A graphic instructions guide for the DIY project

The Pattern Building, on the other hand, requires more instructions and more levels of complexity. However, I still wanted the instructions to be as visual as possible to make it easier. So, I created a detailed instructions page that explains exactly how to use the tool and how to create new patterns and insert them into the original templates.

Pattern Builder - Instructions A
Pattern Builder – Instructions A
Pattern Builder - Instruction B
Pattern Builder – Instruction B
Pattern Builder - Window Styles
Pattern Builder – Window Styles
Pattern Builder - Layers. The user can remove/add visibility from layers as needed
Pattern Builder – Layers. The user can remove/add visibility from layers as needed

I decided to use the layers functionality in illustrator to allow the user to toggle between layers and place the items they want on the Illustrator artboard while removing or changing or simply remove them from visibility. I’ve used this method before to create templates in my previous jobs and I noticed that it is a tool that is not often used but offers a lot of flexibility for the users, without hindering the design elements.

This makes sure that users have the right information to use the tools.


Critical Analysis

Even though the design were all tested and rendered in Autodesk, since I was not able to perform a laser cut myself, this is still considered a theoretical design. So, my next step is to laser cut this as soon as possible and make changes based on the analysis of the assembled object.

Given my background in tattooing and calligraphy, I have a lot of experience in creating new patterns and use them in my designs. I believe the pattern editor tool has a lot of potential for becoming a widely used tool. It opens many doors for IncenseBurn and extends its lifetime because it is a very effective tool for building patterns quickly and without the lengthy process of doing it from scratch.


Tools & Materials Used

Vector drawing is essential to DIY projects because it is scalable and without it, the DIY project will remain limited. Vector and Illustrator go hand-in-hand in my opinion, and I’ve been an illustrator user for over 15 years now and still is my first go-to software for any vector related processes. Breaking down Illustrator to its most useful tools is an unrealistic feat because there are always many ways to do the same thing with Illustrator. So I’d rather discuss my personal favourite tools and how I used them in this project.

Pathfinder: In my opinion, one of the most useful tools offered by Illustrator and has remained almost unchanged for so many versions of the software. I use it to unify or split objects and to create die-cuts.

Clipping Mask: Another extremely useful tool offered by Illustrator. Its most commonly used to create a specific frame for another object or pattern.

Autodesk Fusion360
During the process of creating this project, a few tools came in very handy and were essential for completing this project. Fusion 360 has the ability to process an SVG file, customize it and then render it. That allowed me to test my designs before running them in the machine and allowed me to fix mistakes before performing the first prototype. In a way, Fusion360 gave me the opportunity to view a very accurate digital prototype, which was extremely useful.

Also, another useful tool that was introduced to me is MakerCase. It is a web tool that allows the user to create and download an SVG file of a box with customizable dimensions and edge joints. I was in the middle of the process of creating these edges manually, but MakerCase does this and within seconds delivers the file.


  1. Abdullahi, Y., & Bin Embi, M. R. (2013, June 18). Evolution of Islamic geometric patterns. Retrieved from
  2. The Divine Beauty of Islamic Art. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Badillo, S. (2018, April 04). First Islamic Arts Symposium in Texas. Retrieved from