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Daily Inspiration: Meet Anna Karpinski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna Karpinski.

Hi Anna, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was adopted from China when I was two years old, and grew up in St. Louis in the St. Louis Hills area. My parents are both creative — my dad is a graphic designer and my mom is an illustrator. That means I grew up constantly surrounded by visually beautiful things, creative ways of thinking, and parents that worked from home. I got an intimate view of the creative process every day, and learned a lot about exactly what illustration and design meant even before I was in high school.

I bounced around a lot on what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was a child. From an archeologist (“you know that just means digging around in the dirt all day, right?” to a fashion designer (sewing = no thanks) to a journalist/writer (not enough pictures), I didn’t know where I wanted to land. But the older I got and the more I understood what my parents did, the more I realized I wanted to get into graphic design. This was in part because the work my dad did resonated with me more, in part because the amazing amount of work my mom created on a daily basis as an illustrator intimidated me, and in part, because I felt like graphic design would allow me to explore the most without feeling limited by the definitions of my profession.

High school and college amounted to (as it should) a lot of self-discovery, specifically in the way I wanted to visually represent and understand the world. I went from trying my hand at fine art to doing ultra-detailed vector illustrations. I tried out everything that was opposite of my parents, in an attempt to find my own voice and prove that I wasn’t just a product of their home and that I could be my own creative.

Fast forward to recent years and I’ve fully embraced the things that I do that are similar and different from them. I stopped avoiding things and started following what felt right and fun, and I found that those projects were the ones I invested the more time and care into. I feel like a little combo of both of them — a graphic designer in a lot of ways, but also someone who can’t resist the opportunity to knock out an illustration. My style and my journey are uniquely my own, but I draw a lot of inspiration from the creativity that I grew up around, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities I did and the knowledge of my profession so early on. There are always challenges when you’re joining “the family business”. There’s the added pressure of wanting to live up to your parents’ reputation in the community, and the pressure of simultaneously wanting to define yourself as your own person and your own designer. Imposter syndrome is multiplied by the “they’re just being nice because they know my parents” paranoia.

Honestly, these are all things I still struggle with and probably always will. But over the last few years, I’ve been able to push my own boundaries and take everything in stride, which has allowed me to slowly build my own reputation in a way that’s not connected to my parents, while still maintaining relationships and history that honors them and the impact they’ve had on our community.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m currently an art director at Osborn Barr Paramore, where I work primarily with the Missouri Division of Tourism and the “That’s My M-O” campaign. Previously, I worked at PGAV Destinations where I worked on environmental, interpretive, and graphic design for award-winning zoos, museums, aquariums, and guest experience spaces including Anheuser-Busch, Georgia Aquarium, Cincinnati Museum Center, and several international clients.

In recent years, I’ve been taking on freelance work that’s focused on logo design and illustration. I work primarily with non-profit organizations.

I am also the current president of AIGA St. Louis. Over the past several years I’ve worked hard to re-brand our organization as one that celebrates diversity in our local community and prioritizes accessibility. I want AIGA to be a resource for inspiration, career help, networking, and more. I’ve re-imagined how we utilize our social channels, restructured our board and our internal processes and methods of communication, and consulted with other nonprofits on partnership developments and event planning.

I’m proud of a lot of things over my short career. The thing I’m most proud of, though, is how my path has taken me places I never would have imagined and the bravery it’s taken to get here. I’ve been able to connect people and organizations to each other, participate in exciting initiatives and events from beginning to end, and worked with some truly inspiring organizations and people along the way.

I feel like I’m still finding myself in a lot of ways, so it’s hard to give a concrete answer to what sets me apart. I suppose if you asked someone if they knew my work, they’d point to a lot of my illustration work and hand lettering exercises. They’d probably also say that I’m always busy but somehow always answering e-mails immediately and keeping my life organized.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I think people may be surprised when I say I don’t really consider myself an illustrator. I should probably start considering myself one, though, if we’re being honest.

In recent years, eyebrows get raised more and more when I say I’m an introvert. I’ve always been shy and (I think) awkward, and I’ve always had trouble in large crowds and networking situations. But by forcing myself out of my shell and involving myself with AIGA and other extracurriculars, I’ve built a level of self-confidence that comes off sometimes as being either extroverted or being unbothered by having to speak in public (which is 100% not true, I hate it).

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Image Credits
Joseph Roberts (main photo)

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