A Look Into Ishaarah Arnold’s World of Graphic Design

Born and raised in Cape Town, Ishaarah Arnold is a graphic designer and illustrator who has made a name for herself within the design space.

Arnold has worked on some of South Africa’s biggest brands; from being part of the team winning on the Nando’s account for M&C Saatchi Abel to developing the branding of the iconic Zietz MOCCAA Contemporary Art Museum. She’s also worked closely with other local powerhouses such as superbalist.com, takealot.com, Hollard Insurance and Rain, and has flexed her design skills on renowned brands including Red Bull, BMW, and BMW Morrorrad, Asics & Asics Tiger, and Yardley London.

Her work often aims to evoke feelings of happiness in the viewer. As she creates to bring happiness within herself, she aims to elicit the same emotion she feels when creating the work in those who view it.

She shares her journey and artistic influences with us:

What initiated your love and interest in graphic design and illustration?

My story is a bit of a long one. See, my family has always been deeply involved in the arts; from my sister in school orchestra to my father elaborately painting the front door. Naturally, I grew up drawing along with my family; in particular with my second oldest sister, Zakieeyah. When she was in Grade 11, she got diagnosed with Lupus, and despite a serious stint in the hospital, she managed to matriculate and went on to study Visual Communications Design at Stellenbosch University. She was incredibly good at illustration and design, and seeing her work and resilience despite her illness was something I deeply admired. 

To our heart’s ache, Zakieeyah passed in 2006, a year before she could graduate. For some reason therapy has yet to reveal, I decided to follow in every footstep she made after her passing; I went on to study the same degree at the same university and even went to stay in the same residence. I graduated with final year cum laude in 2014 and it meant something to me to get that degree for both of us. I truly believe I wouldn’t be a designer, illustrator, or someone with as much heart if it wasn’t for having her in my life.

Briefly elaborate on the type of work you create.

I create work for myself mostly, little expressions of my own joy in the hopes that others appreciate it. These tend to be illustrative vector-based illustrations, heavily influenced by my graphic design background and profession. Occasionally, I throw a traditional drawing in there too to remind myself to keep it technical. 

What inspires your artistic style?

Often inspiration comes from stints of inactivity in my creative muscles that force me to make something new. In those creative moments, I find myself gravitating towards images of fashion and beauty a lot, imagined as variations of my own experience – from yoga to the comfort of drying my hair. 

Who or what are some of your artistic influences?

At the moment I’m finding inspiration in Italian illustrator Malika Favre and her very graphic vector illustrations. I also often find that I tend to draw body shapes similar to the cartoon Powerpuff Girls, I don’t know why they resonate (she laughs).

Tell us about some of the themes you engage with in your work?

Representation is a very important theme for me. Being a Muslim woman of colour in the design world isn’t common and I’m often the only brown person in the room. I want to make sure that when I illustrate, I take into consideration the diversity of people that could view my work having those viewers feel represented by it. I feel like there’s power in that. 

Can you share some of the projects (commissioned or personal projects) you have worked on? Which one is your favourite and why?

My latest work is always my favourite; at the moment I’ve been experimenting with merging abstract art landscapes with portraiture. The results have been fun and somehow feel like a highbrow evolution of when you used to make paths in paint and then colour in all the overlapping lines. I’m pretty proud of them so far.

Follow her on IG.

Between 10 and 5