Annelle Stotz 2023 SEGD Distinguished Member Award

Product & Visual Design Lead, Cognizant

The SEGD Distinguished Member Award recognizes an individual for demonstrating outstanding volunteer efforts while significantly contributing to the direction, growth and excellence of SEGD programs. Past winners include Christina Lyons and P. Michael Anderson.

Since 2007 Annelle Stotz has dedicated herself to SEGD, progressing from volunteer to Chapter Chair to Board Member. Transitioning from a design firm to working directly for clients, she seized an opportunity to engage owners as potential new SEGD members. During the pandemic, Annelle relocated abroad—becoming an international member—and steadfastly supported SEGD, even without employer assistance. As Auction Chair and alongside Kris Helmick, she launched the SEGD Membership Committee, magnifying its impact through initiatives like “Membership March” and monthly new member calls to create meaningful first connections with new members.

Can you share about your initial attraction to design and how it has influenced your work?
I have always loved creating–drawing, painting, writing. When considering my college education, I was interested in design and law. Growing up in Cincinnati, I was
naturally drawn to the design field, largely influenced by the city’s renowned design school, DAAP. Design is more than just creating—it’s about solving problems and curating experiences that encourage societal engagement, something I find incredibly rewarding.

Which projects have significantly shaped your career?
My early professional experience in Frankfurt with Kolar Design was a defining time, especially working on an innovative project for Procter & Gamble in Beijing. It taught me the value of responsibility and autonomy. My career took a turn when I moved to Seattle and joined IA Interior Architects, working on a challenging project for Amazon. This demanded strategic thinking, resilience, and creativity, which significantly boosted my professional growth.

How did your journey with SEGD begin and evolve over the years?
In 2007, I started as a volunteer for SEGD and progressively moved up to the role of Chapter Chair and then Board Member and Auction Chair. I found a unique approach to connect with clients and saw an opportunity to introduce them to SEGD. Despite relocating internationally during the pandemic and without any employer support, I remained a steadfast member.
With Kris Helmick, I established the SEGD Membership Committee, launching initiatives like “Membership March” and monthly new member calls to foster immediate connections.

How has SEGD played a role in your career, and why do you consider your participation important?
My time in Frankfurt made me realize the importance of having a professional network, prompting me to prioritize joining SEGD upon moving to Seattle in 2013. My tenure as a Seattle Chapter Chair from 2014-2019 was an enriching time where I built my credibility, cultivated knowledge, and promoted professional growth. I was also introduced to public speaking during the 2016 annual conference, “Experience Seattle,” pushing me out of my comfort zone. When I joined the Board in 2020 during the pandemic, I was tasked with sustaining the organization, which I tackled by launching new initiatives and establishing the membership committee.

What advice would you offer to emerging professionals in experience design?
I would emphasize four things: embrace discomfort, it aids growth; be resilient, use your strengths to overcome challenges; stay authentic, follow your beliefs and acknowledge your mistakes; and remain optimistic, see opportunities where others see obstacles.