Zahra Al-harazi knows what it takes to create a masterpiece.
The creative director and co-founder of design shop Foundry Creative fleshes out a client’s unformulated idea, and with the precision of a master sculptor kneads it into a logo, corporate brochure or catchy radio jingle – each one a work of art that targets a specific customer.
“It’s about the stories and sitting down with people to learn where they are coming from,” says Al-harazi, who knows what it takes to make a concept stick out from the crowd and invoke a genuine emotional response.
Al-harazi’s work can be seen across the city from the annual reports for Golder Associates to the holistic packaging for Carmen Creek gourmet meats and the glittery catalogues of Brinkhaus Jewellers.
Travel Alberta even calls on Foundry Creative each year to design its strategic marketing tourism plan, direct mail cards, vacation guides and industry conference swag.
Yet, while Al-harazi has won awards for corporate clients such as Nexen Inc. and ATB Investment Services, it is her pro bono work that has garnered the most attention.
For the past two years, Foundry Creative has donated 120 hours annually to design Immigrant Services Calgary’s (ISC) annual report. Packaged with a separate book of profiles telling the stories of the immigrants, refugees and volunteers at ISC, the report has won international awards, including the Graphis Annual Reports Gold Award and the Communication Arts Award of Excellence.
Outside of work, Al-harazi sits on the board of ISC, which provides the resources necessary for immigrants to settle into their new lives in Calgary. Al-harazi’s involvement with the organization stems from her own immigrant experience moving to Canada from Yemen with her family in 1996.
“When I moved to Canada, I had all of the opportunities I knew other people didn’t,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to be successful in business and family and life in general, and I want to help people who don’t have as much as I do.”
Al-harazi also parlays her design skills into charitable work for L’Arche Calgary, which operates housing for people with learning disabilities, and she sits on the board of Ad Rodeo, a non-profit group that encourages and celebrates excellence in Calgary’s advertising community. She also teaches graphic design at the Alberta College of Art + Design.
To kick back, Al-harazi cuts loose in the kitchen, tackling the finer points of Thai, Indian, Greek and French cooking. The persuasive organizer uses those culinary skills to cook monthly dinners for the residents of the YWCA’s Mary Dover House, which provides transitional housing for women in crisis.
With her hands full juggling her career and community work, Al-harazi still manages to live her life on an even keel.
“People need to see the glass as almost full,” she says. “It gives you a new perspective. Losses don’t seem as big and wins aren’t that important. Everything just becomes part of what you do.”
Why she’s the top: In just three years, her design studio, Foundary Creative, has built a list of high-profile clients including Travel Alberta and ATB Financial, as well as garnered international awards for its pro bono work.
The key to her success: “Success is going after what you want and what makes you happy,” Al-harazi says. “I love what I do and I hope that comes through.”