Bubbly illustration styles have become ubiquitous across the design landscape over the last couple of years. Fun-filled and energetic, this aesthetic injects warmth and levity into a brand system or campaign with bulbous caricatures.
Sofia Romagnolo is an Italian illustrator who has mastered this style and made it uniquely her own with a brightly saturated color palette and exuberant inclusive depictions of women’s bodies.
Romagnolo attended the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, where she studied illustration. She credits her professor Olimpia Zagnoli as being the most significant influence on her development as an artist, whose work is graphic, kinetic, and female-centric, much like her own. “She played a key role in my ‘transforming into an artist’ phase,” jokes Romagnolo.
After graduating from IED Milan, Romagnolo worked as a character designer at the London-based animation studio Blue Zoo before transitioning to her current full-time freelance illustrator lifestyle.
“I know this is the lamest artistic advice ever, but my art style just came to me after an intensive trial and error session,” Romagnolo tells me when asked about her personal aesthetic. (Oh, if only it were that easy for the rest of us!) “I mainly focus on what I liked best: simple shapes, bold colors, and a direct message.”
There is peppy optimism that runs through much of her work. “For me, art is a form of therapy,” she shares. “Whether it’s mine or someone else’s, a painting or a song or a novel, it has the ability to make you dig deeper into yourself. It helps you understand and realize things right in front of you all along. I see artists as messengers of a greater good.”
Romagnolo appreciates the power she has as an illustrator and even sees that with her artistic ability comes a responsibility to make a statement. “Inclusive illustrations and art have the power to normalize and de-demonize diverse, queer, and transgender bodies to those less exposed to these realities,” she explains. “Everyone feels represented and supported, with no need to hide.”
“I truly enjoy when art gets political and controversial. I can proudly say that my illustrations raise questions about what society considers ‘normal.’ When I draw a woman with a bigger figure or body hair, I usually get asked, ‘But why?’ To which I reply, ‘Why not?’”
Romagnolo isn’t surprised to see this vibrant and joyful illustration style trend on the rise. “I think people nowadays are trying to find positivity, tranquility, and serenity wherever they can,” she says. “The times are pretty hard on all of us, and a more light-hearted illustration style brings people joy and helps artists convey a message more effectively. We want every category to be represented, and what better way to do that than in a colorful and happy illustration?”
A book of Romagnolo’s illustrations entitled Azzurroscuro came out last December from publishers Psicografici Editore, and she’s already looking forward to the next thing with her sights set on editorial work. “Illustrating magazines and articles about social themes would really be a dream come true,” she says. “Another goal is working on an illustrated clothing line—any sustainable brand that’s reading this, hit me up!”