From Facebook Fan Page to Design Studio: Laura Karasinski’s Design Journey
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 05/09/2022 | 7 Minute Read
Laura Karasinski didn’t exactly plan to start her business when she did.
Today, she’s the Art Director and Founder of Vienna-based Atelier Karasinski, but back in 2012, all she knew was a potential client had approached her about designing their bakery packaging, and she merely wanted to ensure she had everything sorted out legally before she started. So in between her college classes, Laura stopped by the chamber of commerce.
Thirty minutes later, she was a certified business.
The self-proclaimed shy kid painting in the corner, Laura gravitated towards visual arts when she was growing up. She had a habit of collecting different printed materials like packaging and flyers, and from kindergarten to high school, she excelled in art—so much that a teacher encouraged her to go to the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. She focused on graphic design and advertising, later switching solely to graphic design.
“I studied there for five years, only to see that advertising is definitely not what I wanted to do,” Laura said. “But I wanted to stay in the field of conceptualizing ideas and helping people realize their identities. So I chose graphic design and branding instead and switched to another class for my last semester, which was great. I saw the difference between a very commercial perspective, which didn’t resonate with me, and then creating something from a more artistic perspective.”
While school gave Laura some of the invaluable skills necessary for her career, she has Facebook to thank for landing that first-ever client, which prompted her to establish a business. She kept a sketchbook that was more like a diary, but instead of written entries, she used it to paint and draw. With urging from her friends, she started a Facebook fan page to share her work.
“Overnight, I had 500 followers on Facebook,” she said. “It was another time, and people really got hooked on it. At some point, I had like 6000 fans. Which is not that much now, but back then, it was a lot. I slid into this young generation of entrepreneurs online.”
And that’s how Laura gained recognition enough to begin Atelier Karasinski in earnest. She didn’t wait until she graduated college or pay her dues at other design studios; instead, she chose the self-employed path right from the start. Laura admitted that this was an option that had always been at the forefront of her mind—both of her parents worked for themselves, so she viewed self-employment as a natural choice for her career as well.
“I come from a family of Polish immigrants, so I was told from a very young age that if I want to make it in Vienna, I have to have a good degree and study and prove myself,” Laura said. “But I loved the work. I was a very introverted and shy kid, and through work, I got so much confidence. And it’s interesting because it’s the most beautiful thing to have something where you can help people in your own unique way.”
And Laura has had to work hard to make a name for herself and her studio, but the challenges she faced at the beginning of Atelier Karasinski as a young female in a male-dominated industry still bubble up. She’s been mistaken for an assistant in some cases, and when working on interior design projects, she’s encountered some people who doubt her abilities because she doesn’t have a formal architecture degree.
“The funny thing is, 100 years ago, that wouldn’t have mattered,” Laura said. “Like with Kolomon Moser, who I look up to for his different kinds of creative works. He did interior design, he did product design, and he did graphic design. He didn’t focus on one thing, and nobody cared. So we try to do the same.
“I’ve had the experience a lot where people question our ability to do the work in the first place, and then once we do it, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, she’s good.’ But in the first place, I have to prove myself, and that’s frustrating.”
Laura has a decade of experience running her own business—not something that every young thirty-something can say—and throughout that time, she’s come to realize she doesn’t have to do it all. When she was starting out, she wanted to have her hands on every aspect of a project because she wanted to experience and try everything. Now, Laura knows when to say no to work and refer others who specialize in particular fields. She also regularly partners with other companies like Archiguards to bring plans to life. That allows Atelier Karasinski to focus on its strengths: conceptualizing a story and bringing grand ideas to life through things like graphic and interior design. Basically, creating a wholly unique world for a client.
Such was the case with Adlerhof, a cafe, bar, and restaurant in Vienna. Immensely popular in the 80s, Atelier Karasinski wanted to renovate it while preserving what made it special in the first place. The typography used, for instance, was one also used when the cafe was built around 1880. Vintage materials and objects appear throughout the space in unique ways, including a custom wallpaper inspired by the work of Johann Baptist Wenzel, the emperor’s own painter in the 18th century. The studio also worked with the famed chairmaker Thonet to produce 30 chairs with the new logo for Adlerhof. There’s not one detail that feels out of place or takes you out of this magical world they’ve created; instead, the result is an all-encompassing experience.
“We set out to do the logo, branding, packaging, and printed matter,” Laura said. “We did interior design together with Archiguards and all our brilliant partners like our light designers from Cuuluu, our carpenter Thomas Schindler, and our upholsterer Kohlmaier Wien. For our packaging, we worked with London-based illustrator Isabella Cotier."
“We aimed to connect traditional Austrian artists from the past with younger generations,” she added.
Atelier Karasinski has had international clients like Yves Saint Laurent, Campari, Absolut Vodka, and Warner Music, but Laura adores projects local to Vienna just as much. Restaurant and bar Motto Wien was the studio’s first interior design project. The eatery had a reputation as a legend in the Vienna culinary scene, and the studio spent months perfecting plans with its partners and managed to transform the space. Visitors walk in, and find a chic, lush wonderland of tropical plants, Renaissance-style paintings, and emerald velvet seating. The studio has also taken on projects like the vibrant cookbooks for Karma Food and fun packaging (on top of interior design) for Adlerhof Cafe, Bistro & Bar.
The last few years with Covid have been difficult for everyone, and as a studio with plenty of interior design clients, even more so. On top of supply chain delays, people still have to adjust to a new normal and get used to going out and doing things again. But as Laura looks back on her career thus far and considers what the future might have in store, she considers herself incredibly fortunate.
“I’m so blessed,” she said. “I’m beyond thankful that I get to do what comes to me naturally. I never feel at work when I’m working. But I wake up and love what I do. It sounds so cheesy, but it makes me happy.
“In the end, I’m able to help people through my work and put beautiful stuff out there.”
Images courtesy of Atelier Karasinski unless otherwise noted.