Atlanta 'mood magician' Marina Skye on her set design journey

Marina Skye is an Atlanta-based set designer and creative director. (Courtesy of Set by Skye)

Marina Skye likes to call herself a “mood magician.” Skye has designed sets for music videos, clothing stores, restaurants and more as a creative director. In 2017, she started her business, “Set by Skye,” and has created moods for 21 Savage, Big Boi and T.I.’s Trap Music Museum. “City Lights” producer Summer Evans spoke with Skye via Zoom to discuss this set designer’s journey from DIY to a thriving business.

Interview highlights follow below.

How the tragic death of Skye’s brother spurred a personal reckoning:

“People always say this corny thing, ‘Life’s too short, and do what you want because you never know.’ Like, you hear that, and it really takes something like jarring to happen for you to really understand that that is actually the truth,” Skye reflected. “So when he passed away, it literally was a wake-up call for me, and I’m like, ‘Okay. I don’t know if this is exactly what I want to do with my life, but … this very intense situation has just happened, and I think it’s time for me to figure out what it is I do want to do.”

From starting a fashion line to discovering her true talent:

“I started to realize about a year and a half into [running a clothing line] that I was paying more attention, when I would go to these trade shows, to how I would make my booth look different from other people’s booths, as opposed to the actual clothing that I’m supposed to be, you know, selling to people,” Skye recounted. 

“I soon realized that that idea was creative direction and set design. And the moment I figured out that that’s what I was actually interested in, that that’s what I was doing, it was like God was like, ‘This is it. Hello, this is what I’ve been trying to get you to do for your entire life. This is finally it. Congratulations, Skye.’”

Finding inspiration everywhere:

“A lot of my inspiration comes literally from Pinterest scrolling like people scroll on Instagram or just real-life experiences,” said Skye. “After a while, my brain just started to kind of absorb potential in the world. So I’ll go to a music festival, and I’ll see a lady with a really cool skirt on, but the way that the skirt moves, it could … be added to a set for motion. Or I will be at a stoplight, and I see something like a billboard on the street, and the colors on the billboard could be associated with the colors for a music video that I’m working on.”

Leading set design and art direction for T.I.’s Trap Music Museum:

“Each room is a different concept. We have your grandma’s living room in there, where most rappers start out — they’ll write their rhymes in someone’s living room. And so we have a set design that’s created exactly like the quintessential Southern grandma’s living room, with the plastic on the couch and the … TV in a wooden console. And then you walk through, and there are areas where you can actually make your own beats and your own music if you want to.”

“We have a room dedicated for T.I. We have a room dedicated for Gucci Mane, a dedication for Future,” said Skye. “Each room will have something that is quintessential to that person, so the set will be catered toward that. And then the art on the walls will be of that person, and then there’ll be a write-up about that person in the museum. It’s the fusion of fine art and experience because we create these immersive sets, but we also have fine art included in them.”

More on the work of Marina Skye can be found at