Neda’s first time at Rise & Design was certainly a lucky one: her name was pulled out of the basket to be featured as this Summer’s Creative Spotlight!

You’ll want to sit back and read her story.

Written by Anna Hetzel, conversion copywriter and brand messaging strategist.

neda ghoroghi interview

Tell us about your creative journey.

Growing up, my parents aren’t really big in art but my siblings and I loved animated movies. They always inspired us! We all drew together and participated in a lot of different art competitions.

My second and third brothers were especially talented. I was lucky to have someone at home who inspired me in art. My second brother won a Grant prize as a cartoonist before he even turned 18! My youngest brother made drawing look easy - he was so disciplined, very talented in creating a new characters or drawing the exact Disney character at a very young age. 

I couldn’t do that. I was always wild when I was drawing, doing whatever I wanted to do on paper. My drawings tended to be like cartoons. I started to draw my Dad’s face, then my teachers’ face. I remember when I was in middle school one day I drew my literature teacher’s face in my book and my classmates were so amazed by my drawing that they kept passing my book with a drawing in it to each other in a class. 

I remember when I was 9 years old I would come home from my English classes and redraw the illustrations in the book. I never kept my school books clean and my notebooks were covered in illustrations!

Alongside art, I trained hard at swimming. I put in intensive work with national swimmers on the school team. At the age of 9, I won my first two bronze medals in an elementary school championship in my country.

When I was in middle school, my dad noticed my talent in art. Once he told me, “I want my daughter to be an artist.” That made me so happy!  My dad was always my inspiration and support and my Mom always tried to push me to my limits in Sports and English classes.

In my country when you go to high school you have to choose your major for college. My mom wanted me to study Math. In our society and my family, it’s a matter of prestige if you study Math or Engineering or Medicine. I wasn’t really allowed to take art very seriously - how much money could you make as an artist?

I studied math for one year in high school but I didn’t like the environment. Even though in Sophomore year of high school, I was nominated as one of the top students to practice with other top nation students and participate in a Chemistry Olympiad, I decided to go for art. 

During the summer after sophomore year of high school, I took the courses I needed to get into art school. By the end of the summer, I passed all the entrance exams to art school.  I really wanted to get into graphic design. 

I got into the best and biggest art school in the capital! While in senior year in high school, I was nominated as one of the seven top illustrators in the country and invited to attend the illustration workshop in Paris, France. 

For some reason, the trip was canceled, and so my country hosted students from all over the world who were supposed to attend this workshop in France. It was an unforgettable experience!

What are you doing now?

I ended up coming to the United States in 2014 to follow my passion and start working on my Coaching experiences in the Aquatic Industry in the U.S.A.

I got my Masters in Sport Management and kept doing art on the side. I’m the only one of my siblings to come to the US for school. To make it here is really hard.

It’s been 5 years since I left my country and haven’t traveled home since then but I would say I am so blessed to have such a great family who are always there for me with their tremendous help and support. 

While at Central Michigan University I had an exhibition and was interviewed by the college. I become somewhat campus famous - I was the foreign student who was an artist and a pro-swimmer!

That little bit of fame gave me a chance to change people’s perspective and help people understand the other side of my culture and people. It meant so much to me because you really can’t trust what you see in social media, especially those negative messages about my country. We’re normal people, just like Americans.

When I graduated from CMU in December 2017, I moved to Miami, FL for work to hopefully find the sponsor for my visa and tried to keep making art on the side. After 6months living in Miami and working with one of the former Olympic Swimmers as an Assistant Coach and his team I got a fulltime job as an Assistant Coach at Ohio Northern University and start working with the swimming and diving team, 

Now I’m back as a student at Ohio State  as well as the student manager and one of the social media people working with Ohio State Swim team. It’s been fun to help with the swimming team’s social media marketing. People think that Swimming is a boring sport but you should check out our music videos on our Instagram page! 

I try to show the training and day-to-day work. At the same time, I try to capture unique and fun moments that happened.

Also, I’ve been accepted in the Sport and Social Justice Doctoral Program at OSU and I will start it in upcoming Spring Semester!

A portrait of Paul Klee - Neda hopes to have this sketch hanging in a gallery in the Short North some day soon!

A portrait of Paul Klee - Neda hopes to have this sketch hanging in a gallery in the Short North some day soon!

What inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration?

For inspiration, I got out biking, sit in a coffee shop or bar on campus, or watch music videos. I just people-watch. I watch people and try to get the idea from their faces and draw them, but not funny like a cartoon. Mostly in an abstract shape with adding a little fun to it. People have such different characteristics and I love translating that into more abstract colorful work.

Sometimes I go to church. I always loved the church organ and the music they play really fills me up. I try to catch the atmosphere in Church. The environment is just so spiritual. When I go I’m not just getting positive energy. That’s one place that really inspires me.

Is there an artist you look up to?

Paul Klee! Jackson Pollack was my favorite artist when I was in school.

They really push me to keep my unique style. I remain talented in drawing and have a unique style in sketching which people love. I have sold many of my art works and have been invited to display my sketches in rotating exhibits.

neda ghoroghi illustration

What’s your most recent favorite book or movie?

I get a lot of inspiration from videos on Instagram. As for books, I’m reading how to be a better leader and coach!

Do you have a pro tip you want to share?

I have a professor back in Central Michigan who really helped me get through this hard journey because my family is not here.

My family and support system is 3,000 miles and can’t be here every day for me.

He kept reminding me “You are so talented, Neda. You just have to be fearless.”

One of my big dreams, besides being a swim coach, is to become a New Yorker illustrator for the magazine. But that dream is hard because I needed to make my life stable as an international student.

Thankfully everything is working alright right now.


Be fearless, stay positive. Keep doing the things that you’re doing.

Link us to your stuff!

Follow OSU’s swim team: @ohiostswimdive

Follow Neda: @nedaghoroghi

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