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InsightApr 11, 2024

Designing Paths: Arezu Ahmadi shares her story as an immigrant designer

Written by Arezu Ahmadi, and Olivia Baker-Sullivan, Block

Arezu Ahmadi Provisional RGD, a freelance brand and web designer, moved from Iran to Canada in 2017. Receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design in 2009, she's worked for ASUS in Iran and is now freelancing. In 2022, Arezu moved from Alberta to Ontario. She's passionate about lifelong learning, actively participating in the RGD Education Committee and contributing editorial content since joining the RGD a year ago.

What drove you to leave Iran, and then end up working in Canada as a designer?

I came here for the country’s commitment to diversity and value my freedom to live here, especially as a woman. I want my child to grow up in a society that aligns with my belief in diverse perspectives and freedom of expression of ideas, which also enriches the creative process.

What observations have you drawn about Canadian versus Iranian styles of design?

I believe the basic principles of graphic design between Iran and Canada remain the same. However, I have noticed significant differences in typography. Learning about fonts and type in English was a great shift for me, especially coming from a background where I used to write right to left. While I love Persian calligraphy, I have come to appreciate English type for its geometrically shaped letters and find it more convenient for its shapes and letters than Persian type. 

If I consider the benefit of being a Persian designer, I found in my Persian heritage a connection to one of the richest and oldest cultures globally. This has allowed me to draw on connections from the past and immerse myself in a historical, artistic flow from an early age, resulting in a visual memory filled with incredible images. The unfortunate part is I grew up in a society where censorship was pervasive and the Islamic government didn't allow artists, designers or writers to express ideas as they wanted.

What would be something most Canadians or immigrants to Canada might not know about your unique experience?

Coming from a rich Persian cultural background, I bring a unique advantage to my design work. I'm experienced in meeting the needs of bilingual clients and understanding Arabic design due to my familiarity with Persian typography. Living in Canada further enhances this advantage. However, I've faced challenges in convincing employers of the value of my international experience. This led me to start my own business, rebuilding my career from scratch.

Despite my qualifications, some employers prefer Canadian-experienced designers. The hurdle lies partly in how HR evaluates portfolios. While I showcase my Membership with the RGD on my website, I lack in-house Canadian experience, which is a barrier in certain job applications.

What were some unexpected obstacles coming to Canada as an already experienced designer?

I was confident that in Canada, my previous experiences would ease landing my first job. Reality proved otherwise. As a newcomer, I found that immigration centres primarily focused on individuals without professional or educational backgrounds, which left me feeling isolated in the first year after immigrating. Luckily, after one year, I found the Edmonton graphic design community, and my design journey in Canada started from there. Being encouraged by people in the field is really important, when everything is very challenging, language barriers on top of other living challenges make things more difficult. 

Joining the RGD has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow designers and gain invaluable insights from their expertise. The RGD Mentorship Program, in particular, has been instrumental in enhancing my skills and boosting my confidence as a designer.

Check out more of Arezu's work here.


Olivia Baker-Sullivan


My name is Olivia Baker-Sullivan and I am a Digital/UX Designer in Toronto, Canada. My current areas of greatest interest are drawn from past experiences: Interior Design, Web and Print Graphic Design and Event Design. Bilingue en Français et/and English.

My goal in life is to have a career as diverse as my interests. Outside of design, I enjoy playing violin, piano and singing. I also enjoy digital and film photography as well as drawing and painting. I now regularly take yoga classes in downtown Toronto.

I look forward to connecting with you!


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