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InsightMay 28, 2024

Designing Paths: Natalia Ultremari shares her story as an immigrant designer

Written by Olivia Baker-Sullivan, Block, and Natalia Ultremari

Natalia's journey into the world of design has been marked by unexpected discoveries and unwavering passion. Originally from Campinas, Brazil, she left her hometown at the age of 19 for San Francisco to improve her English and went to study at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

In her design practice, Natalia considers herself a storyteller and a dreamer, blending cultures and ideas to produce bespoke outcomes for each project. Collaborating seamlessly with architects, planners and communicators, she breathes life into spaces through engaging and informative graphics, spanning environmental graphic design, signage, wayfinding, exhibit graphics, branding and visual identity design.

Motivated by her belief in the transformative potential of design, Natalia strives to create environments that inspire, delight and foster connection and community. Whether through custom illustrations, print collateral, marketing support, proposals or presentations. She is committed to crafting experiences that resonate deeply and leave a lasting impression on those who encounter them.

We've found your journey very inspirational. We're here to hear about your path to Canada. So, let's start with why you chose to study design there?

There were several key moments that led to my decision. After finishing my degree in San Francisco, studying more in the US wasn't feasible due to high tuition and strict work laws for students. I explored other countries, aiming to stay close to San Francisco. Vancouver was the goal, but credit transfer issues led me to Nova Scotia. Despite being unfamiliar, Halifax seemed like a great student-friendly town. It was about balancing proximity to the States and family with affordability.

Can you share any unexpected challenges you faced?

Beyond the typical cultural adjustment, adapting to Halifax's harsh winters and starting afresh socially were hurdles. Post-graduation, the pressure to secure employment swiftly due to immigration deadlines was real. Then, just as I relocated to Toronto for career growth, the pandemic struck, compounding the isolation.

How was the transition from the student life to the working world?

Transitioning from student life to the work field was quite intense. I found myself juggling multiple responsibilities while wrapping up my final semester projects. Alongside that, I was focused on building my portfolio and expanding my professional network. The internships I secured during summers, both in San Francisco and Halifax, played a significant role in bolstering my resume.

The pivotal move to Toronto was the result of diligent job hunting and early networking efforts. Despite the role not perfectly aligning with my experience level, I approached the opportunity with confidence, knowing I could grow into it.

Throughout this transition, I found that casting a wide net while applying for jobs was crucial. This approach helped me land unexpected opportunities. My advice to others would be not to shy away from roles that may seem slightly beyond your current level. Instead, tailor your applications to showcase your skills and always remember that networking is key to success in the job market.

How did your background influence your perspective on design?

Coming from a country with limited art education, my journey into graphic design was unconventional. It wasn't until later that I explored Brazil's design scene, realizing its subtle influence on my aesthetic choices. Now, I actively engage with Brazilian designers and appreciate the heritage shaping my design sensibilities.

Can you pinpoint a career highlight since your transition?

Collaborating with diverse creatives and contributing to community-centric projects stands out. The interdisciplinary nature of environmental graphic design allows me to blend various design skills and address community needs creatively.

Your passion for your work is evident. Could you shed light on the significance of environmental design?

Environmental design is about applying graphic design to outdoor spaces, integrating with architecture and serving communities. It's rewarding to contribute to projects that enhance public spaces and foster community engagement.

Check out more of Natalia Ultremari’s work here

Looking to learn more about Designing Paths? Email us at


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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