Meet Pooyan! He's a Creative Director who's been passionate about design since he was a kid. When he was just 11 years old, he started learning Photoshop and created his first project - a logo for a classmate's blog. The best part? He was paid with a delicious falafel sandwich!
He continues to draw inspiration from both his Iranian heritage and his experiences in Canada, which gives him a unique perspective in his work. With his passion and talent for design, Pooyan is constantly pushing the boundaries to create something extraordinary.
Here is how Pooyan went from having a childhood passion for letters and design to finally realizing his dream of becoming a Creative Director.
Q: How did you get into design?
A: I was 11, and I started learning Photoshop.
I started playing with it a little bit, and my very first project was actually a logo design for one of my classmates who wanted an animated logo for his blog. I did it, and he was so happy that he gave me a falafel sandwich in return!
That was the first graphic design compensation (lol) that I ever got.
I kept playing with Photoshop and Adobe tools and explored their capabilities for a few years until I got into graphic design. That’s when I got really interested in English letters and Persian letters.
I was especially inspired by A1one, who had a mysterious way of playing with Persian letters.
Q: Wow, you started young! What about after that?
A: When I was in high school, and we had this yearly exhibition. By then, I had read so many books on graphic design, and I had been sketching graffiti all over my notebooks
My passion for graffiti and my fascination with letters turned into typography, learned how to create eye-catching images, and voila, you have a graphic design piece. From there, I landed the role of VP, Graphic Design for the school’s annual sciences and art exhibition. I created the logo, the branding, the ads, and the posters for it. And guess what! I was commissioned by the school to do three graffiti on the school’s walls for three consecutive years.
After that, my teachers were like, “Oh, Pooyan can actually do art!” One of my teachers at the time, who taught astronomy in our school, took me to the Zaferanieh Observatory to create the brand identity for their annual event, and that's where I got one of my official first commissions as a graphic designer. The event turned out to have had more visitors than in previous years, and that’s where I got the exposure I needed to get more and more projects.
Q: How old were you?
A: I was sixteen at the time!
Yeah, I was a graphic designer/artist from the get-go, actually. Around the same time, there was this competition at the University of Tehran around the concept of the “Spanish Language and its worldwide impact” or something like that, and one of my classmates encouraged me to take part in that event. I created a poster and won!
Q: Did you end up going to university for graphic design?
A: Fortunately, or unfortunately, because I was studying mathematics in Iran, I couldn’t actually go into graphic design studies at the university. So, the closest place that I could actually get into the fine arts faculty was by studying architecture or urban design.
I ended up choosing urban design, but I was mostly focused on the more artistic parts of the field. So, I created their freshman introductory brochures and calendars, worked with the student association for their posters, helped them with film study sessions, and workshops on how to present their work, and eventually, I became the art director of our faculty’s magazine, which eventually got recognized on a national scale.
I didn’t get the formal graphic design and art studying part for my Bachelor's, which is sometimes, I think, the main reason why I stayed passionate about the field. I was able to pay the bills from being a graphic designer, so I did years of freelance work, I landed commissions, and then I decided to expand my skills by studying for a master's degree in Canada.
Q: What took you there?
A: I always wanted to live abroad to get a new perspective on life, and that’s why I traveled so much and joined many global citizen conferences and internships. When I decided to make a move for my master's, I chose Montreal since everybody was talking about the artistic vibe of the city and the innovation at Concordia University. And to be honest, I was really hoping to expand my background in urban design and mix it with interaction design.
That’s where Concordia University came in and accepted my interdisciplinary research proposal on public spaces and digital exhibitions, which I changed into something more critical and speculative through the 1st year.
Q: How did you find Designity?
A: Yes, the question I was waiting for. So, when I was studying for my Masters, I was working on this SkillShare class, and I was like, “Okay, Pooyan, passive income is everything. You’re going to teach youngsters art and design on the internet, and you are going to make so much money.”
Of course, that plan failed, but I kept on making classes since it just felt so rewarding. When I was in school, my classmate, who was the very first Creative Director of Designity, came into the studio where I was editing my digital illustration for a music albums course, and he told me, “Hey, my buddy is working on this awesome start-up. Join us!”
I thought it sounded great because I could do active income as well as passive income.
Q: What was your first project with Designity?
A: I started working on Designity projects alongside my University Research Assistant duties and the other work I did for the university communications. Then Covid hit! So, I figured, what’s better than full-time remote creative work from home? So I took as many projects as I could from the many different Creative Directors of Designity at the time.
I started working almost full-time until I took a two-month break to finish writing about the app I created for my master’s thesis. After, I came back and spoke with Shahrouz (our CEO), and I told him that I had done graphic design my whole life and now, I would like to invest in Designity by becoming a Creative Director.
I’ve played the role many times during previous projects. I had art direction experience from my time in the magazine; I was vice president of marketing in a student-run organization and I have this extensive resume. I just needed to get involved in Designity on a deeper and more permanent level.
After a month, Shahrouz got back to me and told me I was in, and he gave me my first client.
Q: That must have been an interesting transition from being a creative to managing creatives. What was that like?
A: Indeed, it was a pleasant transition! However, I must admit, luckily, the area wasn’t too new to me. During my freelance years, I had the opportunity to participate in many leadership development programs and even help organize ones nationally and internationally. I always read books and watched YouTube videos on leadership and communication skills. I was continuously testing new techniques in my volunteer or paid roles where I was acting as a vice president, art director, or design manager. I’m still learning and getting inspired by creative leaders, and I strive to become one.
With all that said, a NY-Based virtual creative community where you can establish the vision behind the projects and lead your team to reach those creative goals seemed like a dream to me, so I took a leap of faith.
Q: Do you still see yourself eventually moving to New York?
A: Absolutely! Why not? I’d love to keep my global citizen attitude, and New York is one of the places I have to spend some time in. Everybody says you will fall in love with it, so let's see if that’s true. Not going to lie, though; the cold…I have Middle Eastern blood, so it was a hard change moving from home to Canada, where it’s freezing all the time. So I might consider somewhere warmer.
Q: What would you say to someone who was applying for a Creative Director role at Designity?
A: Finding the right creatives for a project takes some time. Now, I know my right-hand designers and copywriters, and developers. So you’d need to learn the balance of working with new and old creatives, as it is a progressive and ever-evolving industry.
You need to get used to the fluctuations of the talents that you have. But that’s not about Designity, that’s something you’ll find in every creative leadership role. People want to move on, and it's acceptable, but the important thing is the experience you get by mentoring each creative that will stay with them their whole life. The mentorship and teaching portion of our job is so beautiful.
The other piece of wisdom is that sometimes you’ll get clients who have no idea how the design process actually works, and you can expect meetings to run over. They rely on you and, at the same time, question you; as the Creative Director, you need to be patient.
And one of the best parts of our job is to show a brand’s potential that the client had no idea about, and when they see the results, they are so grateful that you become an inseparable part of their company and decision-making. I just love that part.
Client collaboration can be a roller coaster, but it sure is a lot of fun.
Q: What are the top skills that someone should have to be a creative director?
A: Well, I think I started responding to this in the previous question. There are obvious ones, like project and resource management, but we also need to be able to foresee trends and the future of design. So in that sense, you always want to be one step ahead of the trend or at least In line with it.
On another note, sometimes you’ll get into a place where creatives-- even though you’ll try to inspire them with the different mood boards and directions-- want to stay in the same box they’ve been working in. Creative work can also become a routine, so creative direction should nourish the creatives and provide resource management. Sometimes, unfortunately, you’d need to make the hard decision of letting someone go for the sake of business decisions.
Also, the ability to set the design vision and strategy for the client and their company. You would need to develop a comprehensive design strategy that aligns with the overall goals and objectives of the company. And there are obvious reasons why that’s necessary. Still, from another point of view, now that we are entering this scary (but full of opportunity) trend, creative teams are using AI to generate the work of a copywriter, UI designer, concept artist, and more. So with AI taking over the power of executions, most creatives would need to get themselves involved in the creative strategizing.
I could talk on and on about this, so let's talk about it some other time.
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From Falafel Sandwiches to Creative Director.
And that's a wrap! Pooyan's journey from a kid graphic designer to a Creative Director is a true inspiration to anyone who has a passion for design.
Today, he's a seasoned Creative Director at Designity who has worked on countless projects and collaborated with some of the biggest brands in the industry. His love for design remains as strong as ever, and he's always pushing the boundaries to create something innovative and impactful.
Pooyan's journey is a testament to his talent, hard work, and unwavering dedication to his craft.
We can't wait to see what he'll create next!