When 25-year-old designer Noemie Le Coz visited New York City on a whim, she had no idea it would lead to a job at Pentagram, where she would work with clients like 20th Century Fox, Saturday Night Live, or Adobe. Fast forward to 2016, and the Aussie native is now balancing a busy schedule as art director for design studio RoAndCo with freelance projects like She-Moji, or Emoji for Women.
If you’re not using She-Moji yet, go download it now. It’s the app that expands the standard emoji lexicon to include a fresh set of diverse female characters, occupations, and activities, celebrating women while critiquing the classic (read: sexist) lady-themed options we’re all too familiar with, i.e. Bride with Veil, Woman in Bunny Ears, Woman in Red Dress, Nail Polish, or Haircut. “I think it’s important for designers to break away from client briefs sometimes, and challenge themselves to create for personal meaning. If that results in something that benefits the world around them on a greater level, then even better,” says Le Coz.
“When my two girlfriends asked me to partner with them to make She–Moji happen, I absolutely loved the idea, and couldn’t have been more excited to get home and start making miniature Latina astronauts and red-headed yogis. I loved that it was something that could spread fast, and act (quite literally) as a mini shout-out to the ladies on a globally accessible level. Almost all of my creative directors have been women, so for me it was also a chance to celebrate that idea—empowering more of us to raise each other up and create a new dialogue.”
Whether she’s working on a project with friends or for a client, Le Coz’s aesthetic is equal parts sophistication and whimsy. Minimalist, yet never austere, there’s a warmth and playfulness to her design sensibility that she refined while at Studio Binocular, her first job out of college in Melbourne. “My creative director was a dream boss; she made everything fun. The studio’s influences—pop culture, good writing, and looking at the world with an incredible sense of humor—became my own.”
Her work at RoAndCo serves a wide range of clients in beauty, fashion, and tech. In a campaign for Google’s music streaming service, Le Coz created a series of surreal, summertime tableaus with juxtaposed objects like miniature swimming pools made out of coconut shells, or roller skates with bubble gum tape for wheels. “As a designer, my job is often about distilling ideas down to their simplest possible form to communicate something. I try to balance that by bringing in some drama through graphic boldness, and playing with contrasts and tension, mixing highs with lows.”
Recently she worked on the brand identity for Row DTLA, a massive 30-acre, multi-use complex in downtown Los Angeles that used Ed Ruscha’s monochromatic paintings of L.A. in the final style guide—no pressure, right? An early site visit prior to construction was essential. “That gave me a real sense of both the magnitude of the space and its distinct graphic angularity, as well as the tonality of Downtown L.A. We were immediately drawn to the washed out, sun-drenched, colorfully painted concrete facades of the surrounding buildings. The idea of bringing them in as an artful nod to the building’s heritage.”
While the work she’s produced for RoAndCo has been incredibly rewarding, Le Coz realized that dedicating most of her time to client-based work wasn’t giving her the freedom to fully explore personal projects. Since our last conversation, Le Coz made the decision to leave her position at RoAndCo to focus on freelancing full-time. A nine-to-five job can offer security, but it can also breed complacency, and Le Coz has found that she is at her most creative when faced with uncertainty about the future.
“I think I’ve always been fueled by that feeling of discomfort in my career—feeling a little out of my depth might be what drives me. Even though it’s scary, that’s ultimately when I feel most rewarded by my work. It also goes back to that idea of having a sense of purpose, which is really magnified when you’re thrown into the deep end… that satisfaction that you get after you’ve gotten through something really really hard—that’s the best.”
In addition to releasing the second edition of She-Moji, Le Coz has signed on for a two-month contract with Hugo & Marie. “I’m looking forward to finding the mental space to get more experimental and really push my work. Making some weirder stuff that’s allowed to be weird… that isn’t defined by a client or audience… or budget, or timeline!”