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Designer Spotlight: Leonie Kaltenegger

Designer Leonie talks about overcoming impostor syndrome, her love for bold typography, and how yoga influenced her creative practice

Illustration: Celine Lau

Tell us about yourself

My name is Leonie Kaltenegger. I'm 25 years old and currently based in Vienna, Austria. Besides finishing up my Master’s in Visual Communication I work as a Designer and Art Director and enjoy collaborating with other creatives.

Which design topics are you most passionate about?

A few years ago when I was on a semester abroad in the Netherlands I developed a huge love for bold typography. I found myself in a very open, non-judgemental environment, which I had never experienced before from a design perspective. It gave me the ability to experiment, trying out my ideas without any task or assignment. Today, this is a major part of my work and influences the rise and fall of my designs. There are a lot of other factors that need to be considered too but for me, type is just something I am very passionate about. There is so much room to play with, having fun with little experiments.

What do you like to do in your free time?

During Covid, I was able to intensify my yoga and meditation practice, which gave me the ability to deeply connect to myself and my surroundings. This practice helps me to let go of negative thoughts or at least pause them for a little while. It also helps me to avoid overanalyzing the smallest details and instead develop more and more trust in myself and the process. Another thing I enjoy is walks in nature, grabbing my analogue camera on an afternoon and going wherever it takes me. You might also find me restoring and upholstering old furniture from my parent's basement, on the hunt for a bargain at the flea market, or listening to some of my favorite records on a Sunday afternoon.

What’s inspired you recently?

Hearing Hania Ranis' song, F Major, live. It has a very cinematic feel and instantly creates pictures in front of my inner eye. You can adapt a lot of a song and its storytelling for your personal work. I draw a lot of my inspiration from that. Obviously, that goes for any art form, not just music. Trying to find patterns or approaches you could try out differently for your own projects.

What’s the hardest thing about being a designer?

Personally, I would say the inner conflict of knowing what you’re capable of but still doubting yourself and your abilities. The constant temptation to compare ourselves to other designers on social media doesn’t make it any easier. I often speak with friends of mine, mostly women, who are in the same situation, doubting their abilities or even feeling like imposters. I haven’t fully figured out yet how to deal with phases of self-doubt on my own but I know there are a lot of people out there going through it. The only thing that has helped me so far is sharing my thoughts on it and knowing that I’m not alone.

What’s the best thing about being a designer?

Engaging in so many diverse projects and topics, being able to start fresh with an open mind and a trust in the process. I like the endless possibilities of what a blank canvas might become. I enjoy narrowing down ideas and making decisions to shape your vision into what it later becomes. As a designer you have full control of what you want to communicate to others and yet you also have to surrender yourself to something new as a creative outlet. That’s what keeps me going and keeps me excited.

Describe your dream project.

For me, it’s not a specific project but more the approach of projects and work in general - where I just start out with an emotion, feeling or atmosphere. I love the part where you have a vague idea and see it slowly turning into something visual. The intuitive nature of building something from here and the uncertainty in the beginning make this approach really rewarding. It can be difficult to find clients who are this open so usually this approach works well in more private projects or initiatives. To name just a few things, I would really like to create a label for an alcoholic beverage or a bottle design in general. I’d also love the opportunity to design a mural - something that takes up more space, lets you think in different dimensions and works with all kinds of techniques and materials.

What do you do when you feel stuck and low on inspiration?

For my Bachelor’s project, “A Shift in Perspective”, I had to create a poster every day for half a year within a different set of restrictions. Back in those days, I felt stuck and uninspired quite a lot. Especially at the beginning - I didn’t know where and how to start. It took a while until I realized that it helps me to let go of all expectations in the process of creation and sort them out at a later stage of the process. This division encourages me to stay in a creative flow, totally getting out of my head.

Recommend a book/movie/TV series/podcast/playlist to our readers.

One of my favorite series of all time is probably Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I binge-watched it four times, and counting. For me, it has the exact right amount of cynicism and awkwardness. It’s very impressive how she plays with the audience, breaks the fourth wall and creates these hilarious, honest and relatable characters. I’m a big fan of hers - being a writer, director, actress and so much more, starting out as a one-woman show.


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