Anja Kaiser lives in Leipzig, where she spends her time teaching type and typography at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design, working as a graphic designer and hosting club nights. Over to Anja to tell us more…
On her creative development
I grew up in Cottbus, where I was involved in the local music scene organising concerts and parties with a tough female crew. In 2006, I started my bachelor studies at the Burg Giebichenstein University of art and design in Halle (Saale) focusing on typography and editorial design in the printed media. I thought during this time it would be clever to study something which was not connected to music – we always had a hard time to sustain projects that were really important to us. I thought it was probably more healthy and less of a compromise to earn money in a different way, but I realised some years later, that I would end up in the same trap!
In, 2012 I moved to Amsterdam to start my masters in the design department at Sandberg Instituut, which is the Master Institute of the Gerrit Rietveld. In this two year-long autonomous program I focused on my own background investigating into feminism on a visual and theoretical level and investigating in methods and media, which would be new to me. I set up the project Sexed Realities — To Whom Do I Owe My Body? during that time. After graduating I felt the need to move to Leipzig, where a lot of interesting cultural projects, political collectives, and of course friends were based. I also began teaching in my former art school in the basic type and typography courses. Leipzig is a good base if want to choose the projects you’re working for and make a living.
On her style
I remix visual and corporate culture. When I studied at Sandberg, writing became part of my design practice. It helped me to sum up my thoughts by sampling and collaging references, which felt important to me. In general, I love to work with bold typography layers that merge into each other and confuse somehow hierarchies. Every element tries to deal on the same level and the information mesh to establish a simultaneousness like navigating online. I like to mix up bizarre references that contrast each other. I would describe my style as wanting to be eclectic.
I’m surrounded by a lot of great female designers and artists like Anna Haifisch Stefanie Leinhos. They inspire my work a lot by joking about our struggles in the business, having discussions about formal decisions, hanging out 24 hours in the studio and empowering each other. I love the work of Lotte Meret. She analyses contemporary and historic forms of material culture in relation to feminist theories. She invited me as member of the collective FAK to contribute something to the publication Body Of Work, which is featuring a great bunch of female artist and designers. I’m also a fan of the work of Simone C. Niquille. We studied together at Sandberg and I appreciated her sharp and brilliant way of using design as a strategy to talk about the representation of identity without a body, the digitisation of biomass and the increasingly omnipresent optic gaze of everyday objects. And of course Hito Steyerl is one of my major heroines — as she probably is for a lot of people right now.
Teaching is great training to me own design practice. I really enjoy to take part in the processes of the students and I enjoy to see intense and unexpected work coming out. I think it taught me to become more precise in my way of looking at design and methods. Besides that I’m working on the visual concepts for different ongoing club projects like Balance — Club/Culture Festival and Cry Baby which are taking place at Institut fuer Zukunft in Leipzig.
On what’s next
I really would like to work further on the projects like _Sexed Realities To Whom Do I Owe My Body?_ which is an autonomous one. I think the connection between design and research challenges me the most.
I also enjoy to experiment with media which is new to me. Last summer, I had the chance to work on the visual performance for the musician SkyH1. Music is always a huge inspiration to my work and this collaboration felt like a brilliant combination. But I’m also very excited to work on commissioned projects like designing posters, where people trust me to develop progressive concepts, especially for the club scene in Leipzig.
About the Author
Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.