The Bubbly Experience Designer
Annabelle is a driven design thinker, interior designer and strategist with an accomplished background in branding, spatial installations, and event design. She is a strong believer in the power of the experience within the built environment and the people who bring life to spaces - designing for and with the people.
She currently lives in New York City where she designs commercial spaces and sharpens her signature with another MA and work circulating around interior and experiential Design at Parsons during the day and dances and sings her heart out during the night in Brooklyn.
Sounds like a pretty badass huh? We couldn’t agree more. Enjoy reading our chat with the always busy Annabelle - a true Doyenne.
You create spaces with the goal to always intensify the user’s experience. How do you translate your designs into immersive experiences?
I always think for whom I am designing the space. The visitor and the brand. An immersive experience is successfully conveyed when the drama moments are well orchestrated and executed. The brand has a story to tell. The customer should experience it authentically. My challenge is to define and design these touchpoints. Typically, I start by storyboarding the journey of the space. Major plot moments from discovery to engaging are defined. Now, the message and values of the brand have to be brought across in a sophisticated manner. Make it unique by means of materials you’re using, the scents, the lighting, the scale of architectural elements you’re bringing into the total composition of the scene.
I’d say the experience is successfully designed when people leave and remember certain aspects of the space. This might be very subjective – some react to sound more than scent. We all see and experience differently. The more crucial it is to create a holistically, consistent space. The more distinct the message, the better the experience. It’s not about confusion and chaos, but one consistent message wrapped in a magical, surprising shape. Unique to time and place. Make it the story of the brand with layers designed in a way that they become the customers own moments. Mostly though related to how they feel, less of what they’ve seen. It is my goal to design so well that it touches emotions of people.
We derive from a world of over consumption. ”More” used to be the goal. Why not only making it better instead? The entire system is intoxicated. From environment to the people. We need to give us a recovery from all the hyper consumption. It’s a change in attitude, rituals and expectations. We need to be mindful with ourselves but also the intoxicated environment we’re living in. The death of retail was often argued with the age of the internet. People might shop more conveniently online. However, I think design products are not even really needed anymore. At least not in such a vast mass. The consumer brands experiencing a shifting, crucial role: offer the platform that provides a unique experience and offers the value and community the person wants to associate with. We also used to buy products to belong to and symbolize status. Today it’s more about the association of a certain sub-culture. A community that does good to the bigger in some respects. The brands have power to foster such worlds. I help them creating meaningful experiences that happen in space but have a much bigger impact on the people.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
It’s important not to try to think consciously. I give myself time to drift, wait, obey – and most importantly to EXPOSE myself.
I am lucky enough to live in a very activated, never sleeping city. A melting pot of cultures. Nothing surprises you that much anymore once you lived here for a while. People live and let each other live. No other city on this planet asks as much for authenticity of every individual as NYC. It’s a collage of personas, all the contrasts you can imagine – and all goes together in the end. The realness is the beauty. Far from expectations of what the western world would consider as beautiful. NY has it’s destroyed, uncontrollable sides as well as it’s high-end bougie moments. All next to each other and interlocked. That makes it magical to me and I want to swim in those streams of smells that make you want to throw up and in the next second make you remember your first love.
Yes, it is a city with plenty of opportunities, and even if we all claim to be busy, I make go to happenings that carry the unknown. I try to talk to strangers experiencing the same moment as me. I give myself time to stroll around. I constantly go to concerts, love voguing contests and stay very loyal to Hip Hop culture. It’s about creating stories with people. Looking for the unsaid and find your own explanation to it. It’s about moving and taking risks.
Travelling the world for work, what have been some of your career highlights and destinations?
First, I must admit I struggle with the word ‘career’. A career is born in public. Talent in privacy. To me, it’s not about a career. It’s about believing in something. It’s about caring and empathizing and wanting to create the best, the most true to life. The most real.
I feel I am still at the beginning of a lifelong journey. Looking back I certainly can highlight some plot moments that shaped my way and made me to who I am currently.
Some memorable moments:
Multiple Jam Sessions after concerts at Auditorium Stravinski at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. I happened to assist Claude Nobs during this late hour, very intimate get togethers. I was there when Jamie Lidell met Sophie Dahl. Sat next to Quincy Jones on a velvet couch when we looked at the Lake of Geneva at night. We celebrated Puma’s (Erykah Badu’s daughter) seventh birthday there too. There was so much more than name dropping. It was the passion and dedication to music. The best quality in space, acoustics, artists. The most intimate gatherings. I was young. But it shaped me for a life.
New York was and always will be my favorite destination and my home. Moments here are uncountable. Having dinner next to one of most community driven artists, Theaster Gates, was a key moment for me. Meeting another big inspiration Mickalene Thomas was another. Listening to Li Edelkoorts Socio-cultural trend forecasts seminars is reshaping me annually. Learning from and with people like Daniel Arsham is a dream, but real.
Graduating and working at Parsons is a wonderful chance. Certainly a conceptually strong university, driven by socio-cultural innovations.
Most currently: I felt satisfied and pleased when one partner of a fashion runway design company looked through my portfolio, looked at me and said: “I see, you need more. Your handwriting wants to go beyond the corporate. You have to follow your passion and explode”.
And I think I exploded this summer when I finally visited Marfa, Texas. I can’t explain what happened there. It was just magical. And I can feel how this special light continues to shine within me.
You have worked hard and created concepts and installations for world-renowned fairs and events such as Art Basel, Montreux Jazz Festival or Salone del Mobile and for high concept design firm Snarkitecture. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how have you overcome it?
Biggest challenge is always the unkown, the new, out of your comfort zone and the time you need to find your role within a system - sometimes filled with egos, very distinct handwritings and strategies. It’s the process that is the pain but also the reward.
It’s an attitude of always wanting to grow through change. Being curious, observing and implementing in new manners. Change keeps you and everything surrounding you interesting – it’s the only constant we have in life. Knowing this helps me overcome bad moments. I know they will not last forever.
What’s one thing you’ve done in your career that helped you succeed, and that very few other people do?
Put blinders on to the things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.
What’s a mistake you see get made all the time, even by very smart people? What have you learned from that to handle that thing the right way?
The need of belonging. The fear of loosing something.
Therewith comes an attitude of ignorance and arrogance that makes one unaccessible to changing contexts and people.
As artist, designer, also poet or musician (…) you tend to live and suffer in the process. We often start with something and all of a sudden destroy everything that we’ve made. And then we’re back at the point where we started from. But we’ve learnt from the process. The land of accidents, try and error is elementary and opens the door to the paradise of freedom and accessibility of so much beauty and progress.
What does a typical day of yours look like?
I have no typical day, I try to stay flexible and open for surprises while keeping my few routines and things I need to feel alive:
Bread and Coffee
Biking across the Williamsburg bridge
One sketch a day
Talking to a friend, even better spending some time with them
Having a moment for pleasure and amusement in a day
Getting lost in the internet
Zodiac Sign: Leo
Currently listening to:
Blood Orange – Gold Teeth
Jungle – Casio
Shit Robot – Take ‘Em Up
Glass Candy – Etheric Device
Pop Smoke – Welcome to the Party
Scarlxrd – Stfu
Go-to work wardrobe: Air Force 1s, the rest is a potpourri of vintage clothes and new high-end designer pieces I typically hunt at sample sales.
How to unwind after a long day at work: Glass of Orange Wine with Bread and Butter at The 4 Horsemen in Williamsburg or some Whipped Ricotta at Miss Ada in Fort Green.
Favorite destination: New York City.
Most used emojis: 😭♥💅🏼🐒🐙⚡🏄🏼♀
Favorite quote: "If you're not ready to expose your true self in New York, you won't survive here. Love your beautiful imperfections. Be confident and accept others for who they are. Do that, and you belong to New York forever" - Quote Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019
Can’t live without: Spontaneous, open people in my life. I love to laugh.
Best piece of advice for success: Rest and be kind.