“Smooth and rough, soft and sharp”: Simone Noronha’s illustrative portfolio is full of stylistic contrasts

With an enviable client list to boot, Simone is set for a successful career within her field. We hear more about her journey and how she landed on this distinctively juxtaposed aesthetic.

12 August 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Simone Noronha has always been an avid drawer. Keen to kickstart something within this field, she experienced a slight drawback while at university; illustration wasn’t viewed as a profitable career choice. “That was only a few years ago, it was a different time before illustration became a huge part of nearly every brand story, identity package and started popping up as full-time positions on job sites,” she tells us. “So I’m happy about the change in recent years, offering me opportunities to pursue what I like doing.”

The now New York-based illustrator was born and raised in Dubai, before moving to the US for her studies. After working as a brand designer for a few years before taking the leap into full-time illustrating, she’s had the opportunity to work with an enviable client list ranging from The New York Times, Pitchfork Music Festival, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair Magazine, New York Magazine, Wired Magazine, Youtube, Google and PopUp Magazine among others. This slightly fuzzy, grainy and vividly hued aesthetic is what’s most likely garnered her such wide commissions, as well as her acute eye for shapes and figures. Upon description of her work, she uses an aptly chosen collection of words: “Noisy, rough, sharp but also pretty fluid,” which is especially suitable for her way of blending juxtaposing textures, as well as accentuating her subject’s curves and details. “I like contrasting opposing natures, smooth and rough, fluid, soft and sharp.”

Simone primarily positions herself within the editorial and motion graphics realms. Viewing the medium as somewhat of a enjoyable game, her reasons for landing where she is today can give thanks to her complete adoration for the process. “It’s a playful mix of trying to solve a puzzle, visual storytelling and hiding Easter eggs that attracted me to illustration,” she says. “I get to suspend disbelief which makes the work fun.” She also cites various artists that have inspired her along the way, including James Jean, Tomer Hanuka, Sanjay Patel, Charley Harper, Chris Ware, M/M Paris, Marian Bantjes and Iris van Herpen.


Simone Noronha

Recently, Simone’s daily routines are very much likened to Groundhog Day – a timely, repetitive reference that we can all relate to in the current cyclical of lockdown. In this sense, she will begin her mornings with he notebook and tea, writing down her thoughts and setting tasks for the day ahead – “usually doodling in the margins”. These doodles, though, are almost always the start of something else that’s yet to come; a personal project brewing of sorts. On days when she’s working with a production studio, this will involve calls and an eight-hour shift before working on her own personal endeavours at the end of the day. On others, they’re usually filled with editorial work, reading the articles, sketching up several options and working on the finals.

“My creative process always starts with pencil sketches, really rough and dirty,” she adds. “There’s also some writing, which helps me solidify and drill down the ideas behind the sketches.” Once the ideation process is in full swing, that’s when she’ll transfer her sketches into Photoshop to make “cleaner sketches” and start “blocking out the mood”. After which she’ll commence working on the colour schemes that will inform the finalised piece – a process that involves lots of “chipping away” and fine tuning.

Last year, Simone was commissioned to draw daily spots in The New York Times newspaper for the entirety of February. Recalling the assignment as a “fun” experience, Simone had plenty of freedom to explore, play and experiment with such a tiny space. “Apart from the unique challenges, it was an honour to be invited because the column was previously helmed by Jason Polan, Jean Julien, Nishant Choksi, all of whom I look up to immensely.” What’s more is that of the last couple of years, Simone has been exploring new territories within Risograph printing, which has informed much of the work that she’s produced of late.

This exploration led to Simone challenging herself to make a zine a week, resulting in various short animation experiments. “It was a super iterative exercise in improvisation and not getting too tied down to the final outcome,” she says, “instead I played around with the processes that made me rethink the ways I work.” A sheer example of her artfully flippant and stylistic illustrative style – one that’s decorated with emotive and relatable characters – Simone has more personal and commercial works in the making, and we’re expecting great things to come.

GallerySimone Noronha


Riso animation


Riso animation


New York Times daily spot


New York Times daily spot


New York Times daily spot

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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