‘Always curious’: UGA graphic design professor recounts his journey of self-discovery through yoga and design | Arts & Culture


As an immigrant from a small German village, a certified yoga instructor and professor of graphics at the University of Georgia, Annika Kappenstein stands out.

In August 2020, Kappenstein joined the UGA Graphic Design Program. Since then, Kappenstein has benefited and added her own creations to the community with her unique experiences and vast knowledge that she gained during her immigration from Germany to the United States.

Growing up in Germany

Kappenstein grew up in Baddeckenstedt, a small village in western Germany. Kappenstein remembers it being somewhat fun to be in West Germany when the Berlin Wall fell due to its proximity to an influential part of history.

Childhoods in Germany are different from those in the United States, Kappenstein said. She said the German school system prioritizes developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills over simple recitation and memorization.

Kappenstein got his first camera at the age of six. She was still playing with her father’s camera, so he gave her one.

“I’ve always been curious and figured things out,” Kappenstein said.

After Kappenstein graduated from high school, Germany had a project. Since that was before she realized she was a transfeminine person, she was expected to participate – but instead, she wrote an essay saying her conscience forbade her from being in premiere. line.

Instead, Kappenstein demanded public service for two years, serving with CJD Salzgitter, a social service organization in a small village for people with developmental disabilities who are unable to work in the general labor market.

“It really opened my eyes to all the different people and… basically everyone wants to be loved. It was an experience that opened my heart, and I’m really glad I did it instead of. crawl through the mud with a machine gun, ”Kappenstein said.

After Kappenstein finished serving, she decided she wanted to study graphic design. She said it was a good compromise of her love for photography while also being compensated. After doing an apprenticeship in a design studio, she was accepted to the Braunschweig University of Art.


“I allow my students to explore. My job is to ignite the flame of curiosity. It has nothing to do with graphic design, and it has everything to do with art. It is this curiosity.

– Annika Kappenstein, professor of graphic design


Falling in love with typography, Kappenstein convinced the university to allow her to use computers to create a typeface, learning the design herself on a Macintosh Plus. Kappenstein said that’s when she fell in love with the design process.

Kappenstein said she started working in a design studio as a student because she wanted to learn, not because she wanted to make money.

“This is what real education should be. You’re in a place where you can play, be curious, and say, “I can afford to fail,” Kappenstein said.

Coming to America

In 1993, Kappenstein co-organized a trip to Omaha, Nebraska. “I was blown away. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a movie.’ The most amazing thing was the people. There was so much more space it was almost like they had more space in their mind, “she said.

In 1998, Kappenstein obtained a journalist visa and moved to New York City with nothing more than two suitcases.

As she was on the verge of running out of money, Kappenstein said she was hired by Interbrand, a global branding company. This is where she polishes the Texaco brand and the USAA logo.

Kappenstein’s career as a professor began at Savannah College of Art and Design after giving a presentation to a group of students. Soon after, Kappenstein and his then wife moved to Atlanta, where she became a professor at Georgia State University.

Eventually, a friend of Kappenstein’s informed her of a job at UGA. She applied and started teaching graphic design last August. When Kappenstein went to UGA for her interview, she said she knew she had to work there.

“When I walked into [Lamar Dodd], I had to catch my breath because there was so much creative energy. It was almost overwhelming, ”Kappenstein said.

She said she felt like she had just come home.

Practice yoga as a way of life

According to Kappenstein, his journey with yoga is closely linked to his discovery of himself as a non-binary transfeminine person. She said she had noticed for a long time that she was different but couldn’t put her finger on it.

When Kappenstein turned 40, she figured it out. This awareness opened her as a person, leading her to discover yoga. She said her first meditation class changed her life. “One of the teachings was that the soul has no sex,” Kappenstein said of a message that resonated with her.

Kappenstein is a certified yoga instructor at the 500 hour level. In addition to teaching at Kashi Atlanta, she teaches a class every Thursday at 6 p.m. at the UGA’s Pride Center.

At one point, Kappenstein lived in an ashram, a community of yogis. Kappenstein said she incorporates what she learned during her time at the ashram into her life and teaching.

“You can’t do yoga, you live it. It’s so much more than contorting your body on a mat, ”Kappenstein said.

Although she has many talents and passions, Kappenstein’s favorite thing to do is teach. She enjoys sharing her experience and wisdom with the next generation.

“I allow my students to explore. My job is to ignite the flame of curiosity. It has nothing to do with graphic design, and it has everything to do with art. It’s that curiosity, ”Kappenstein said.

Breckon Chastain, a senior in graphic design at UGA, said Kappenstein challenges and pushes students to reconsider the rules. “Graphic design can seem very limited by its own laws and principles and Annika often asks us to think about why these rules exist and why can’t they be broken. She is also particularly direct and direct with her critiques, ”said Chastain.

Kappenstein said she is “mystified by the process” of graphic design and firmly believes that the finished product is not what design is, but rather the process it takes to get there.

“Annika has definitely been one of those unique teachers that overwhelms me. I’m very comfortable with approaching problems and solutions with a certain tactic or method, but Annika just won’t let you as a student do that. Your decisions need to be deliberate and focused for her, ”said Chastain.

Kappenstein said his mission is to make sure that students are no longer order takers and only tick boxes and review grades.

“Nobody looks at your notes when you apply for graphic design jobs, they look at the way you think and solve problems,” Kappenstein said.


Clifton L. Boyd

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