Award-winning artist and designer, Annabelle Schneider is a New York based, dual spatial designer and brand strategist with an accomplished background in branding and spatial installations – physical and virtual – with a strong focus on well-being. Having graduated in Design Management, and an AAS and MFA in Interior Design from Parsons in New York, Annabelle began her journey in design and culture with event productions for music festivals and interior, and culturalbrands. Over the course of her career, she has developed global brand strategies, with a strong curiosity of how and why we are inhabiting spaces and extended her focus towards building meaningful brand experiences from retail stores, to brand installations and pop-up stores, to spaces experienced in the virtual realm.
Today, Annabelle is an educator at Parsons teaching Interior Design Studios and Inclusive Retail. She runs her own studio and works at the intersection of art and spatial designs, using design as a medium and speculation that fosters forward-thinking ideas of how we can improve everyday life. Annabelle blends interior design with art and technology to predominantly enhance one’s sense of comfort, belonging, and well-being.
We chatted with Annabelle to talk about working on the Kartell by Laufen Virtual Space.
We have been following your journey for a while. Before we dig in, can you explain Experience Design?
Experience design is the art of crafting three-dimensional spaces that foster community, belonging, and evoke emotions. It involves inviting people into spaces like retail, exhibitions, or hospitality, allowing them to engage, connect, and most importantly; to feel. A successful concept employs a multisensorial approach, from tactile or visually stimulating materials to elements like AR, VR, projection mappings, and innovative sound and light immersions. And – it must be authentic to brand and target.
The role of an experience designer spans commercial and artistic/cultural realms, shaping spaces that carry messages for the socio-cultural landscape. It is about creating a holistic journey, choreographing touchpoints from entry to exit. Applying interior design strategies to entice, to engage and to extend the experienced space in form of memories. A journey designed throughout the space, aiming to leave a lasting mark that transforms emotions into nostalgia.
Experience designers function as choreographers, understanding the intention of the world presented and designing authentic, resonant spaces that connect with visitors.
The focus is on developing a sensorial ecosystem that enhances human experience, embracing emerging technologies seamlessly and purposefully. It goes beyond the seduction of technology, emphasizing the importance of understanding what it means to be human and creating environments that organically integrate the physical and digital realms. The ultimate goal is to forge identity, foster connection, and engage with the community through thoughtful experiential concepts and stories.
Tell us about the project Kartell by Laufen Virtual Space.
Kartell by Laufen was set to launch a new edition of their growing collection. However, pandemic shut down fairs, events, even gatherings for photoshoots. Laufen and Kartell speculated on innovative approaches for storytelling and commissioned an experience on the digital screen. The creative process was fostered as a collaboration betweenthe brutalist Architects Fuhrimann Hächler and me. The final execution wasdesigned and conceptualized by me solely. Yet, I had support from Carlo Peters, an experienced sound designer who custom composed sonic layers for intro, outro, teaser, and each of the four spaces. The Berlin-based Digital agency HenklHiedl supported the interactive web publication.
The virtual space contains four different spaces tied to nature: The Urban, the Desert, the Forest and the Artist studio which featured work by Monique Baumann who is known for her paper-cut collages. The overarching narrative was inspired by experiences and reflections stirred during the global pandemic, asking: If nature takes back the built environment, what remains? We believe in the well-crafted and life supporting essentials that cater to ritual and well-being. Less is more. Quality over Quantity. Communal over the individual. Laufen’s locally produced, hand-made ceramic products in collaboration with joyful colors and reflections from Kartell’s accessories and furniture elements find their precious place within the post-apocalyptic journeys through nature infused environments. Like magical flowers, guiding the way to destinations of magic, rest, and release. Authentic to the collections purpose. Kartell and Laufen offer products for modular living in our most sacred domestic spaces: From bathroom to bedroom. Every product supports hygiene and routine for well-being and self-care through sensational engagements – physically and mentally.
This digital marvel aims to transcend the online norm, transporting emotions through digitally animated, semi-interactive collages. Immerse yourself in surreal spaces with a playful touch and deliberately tactile sensations, crafting an experience that resonates despite the fully digital medium. It is a journey of process and progress, a narrative artfully guiding you through the world of the exclusive collaboration between Kartell and Laufen products.
What / who is the inspiration behind the project?
The idea behind the project was to provide a more human interaction than typical online platforms, which have both been propelled in popularity as well as into ubiquity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has caused senses, such as touch, smell, and personal relations, to be neglected. However, the virtual space is designed to tell a story, transport emotions of the user, and take people on a journey through different, curious scenarios and products. The experience aims to create the feeling as if strolling through a physical Laufen booth at industry events of the past.
My attempt was to remind usthat we are humans – an integral part of nature, and we have needs that ask for tactile and sensual experiences. The 2D stop-motion collages aim to convey that human touch. Visuals and narratives tie into the familiar and curious that eventually make us reflect on current times and the future. What is our responsibility and how do we consume and interact with our contexts?
Tell us about the process you went through?
Blurring the boundaries between physical and digital, the Kartell by Laufen virtual space was conceived by me as the Interior Designer who developed the concept and an early-on collaboration with Swiss architects Gabrielle Hächler and Andreas Fuhrimann. We both have previously worked with the brand to create Laufen booths for many global events including Salone del Mobile.
With stop motion 2D animations that leave a touch of human and hand-made to it, some curiosity and space for the different and surprising in the high-rendered digital, I aimed to bring the rooms to life with further visuals and narratives. Sound designer Carlo Peters then developed the soundscape for each virtual environment.
We developedthree post-apocalyptic nature infused spaces and one artist studio space (Monique Baumann) to explore. In each of the four rooms of the Laufen virtual space, there is a selection of products from the new Kartell by Laufen collection. At the same time, set pieces from nature and remnants of the consumer age form dream-like landscapes embedded in urban space, a desert, or a forest at night. They convey brand relevant as well as poetic and socio-cultural messages that are integrated spatially, atmospherically, and acoustically in the form of soundscapes and short surreal quotes. In addition, the artists’ space where Laufen presents three limited edition silkscreen collages by Swiss artist Monique Baumann, of which three Kartell by Laufen products are an important part. Different weather and lighting conditions, as well as the integration of day and night scenarios, will additionally create various multi-sensory touchpoints. Laufen’s new virtual space thus becomes a digital experience where visitors can immerse themselves in a dream-like world and experience the company’s bathroom collections in a new way. At the same time, they embark on a journey of discovery that arouses curiosity while addressing fundamental social issues.
How did you get involved?
I was working in global branding and strategy for Laufen for almost four years and was part of the global roll-out when Kartell and Laufen collaborated. Together with product designer Roberto and Ludovica Palomba, we designed the worlds for campaigns of the different sets within the collection. Those stories were then further translated from photographs to fair booths, showroom displays and social media campaigns. I was involved in all of them, but the global roll-out of fair and showroom displays became my biggest job. It involved a lot of spatial planning of narratives and building execution on site.
I was very familiar with the collection and both brands. And their narratives. What intrigued me personally is the moment they joined forces, was also a moment in interior design, when spaces started to open up. It became a trend in interiors, that both; Hotel rooms but also domestic places, all of a sudden reduced walls between bathroom and bedroom, sometimes used floor-standing sinks or freestanding shelves as space partitions.
The collection was very timely as it contains flexible products that can live in a bath- or bedroom. It is an open, all-inclusive space now.
Besides this, I also was involved in many fair installations for the brands. We have a magnificent working relationship. Even later, working as an independent designer, I was commissioned to design a booth for the brand’s presence at ICFF2018or install pop-up meditations on the topic of water and ritual during Art Basel Miami 2021 for them.
They know about my curiosity and value explorations and experiments I make with mixed media approaches to tell stories that sometimes can be experiences beyond the physically built space but can further evolve into virtual reality, AR or an interactive virtual space with mixed media methods, infused with sound as seen in this project.
What do you have coming up?
I am working towards using VR for the medical field for trauma therapy and education purpose for children who must undergo heart transplants, and I also have a show for Art Basel in June at Basel in Switzerland, and here in New York, I am showcasing the research I conducted with collaborators on human trafficking in New York City for NYCxDesign 2024… plus a whole lot more!
For those wishing to continue following your journey, how can they stay in touch?