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Annika Hansteen-Izora designs for community and safety online

Annika Hansteen-Izora creates messy and experimental online worlds that cultivate joy and bring people closer together.

Typography reading “Annika Hansteen-Izora designs for community and safety online” and a screenshot of the Form No Form website design

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Annika Hansteen-Izora (she/they/he) is an artist, writer and designer. They’re currently the Creative Director of Design and UX at Somewhere Good, a social media startup reimagining the internet.

Originally from East Palo Alto, Annika’s childhood was communal and artistic. Their parents, grandparents and friends were all hands-on in their upbringing, which was filled with music, dance and video games and rooted in pan-African culture and a Black Panther revolutionary spirit. Their dad was the founder of a technology organization for youth of color, which got Annika into computers and gaming early on.

This familiarity with technology quickly opened up additional creative avenues for them — and at the age of 10, Annika designed their first zine on Microsoft Word. “I loved the idea that I could make a book for my friends to read,” they say. By middle school, they were interviewing local bands for their self-published zines.

Annika went on to pursue a dual sociology and psychology major at Oberlin College in Ohio, but their student job managing a music venue on campus was what ended up impacting them the most. “The venue was very white-centric, and I wanted to bring in new voices: Black, POC, queer and trans voices.” Alongside scouting for and booking artists, Annika especially enjoyed designing concert fliers and forming a new identity for the venue. Slowly but surely, Annika embraced the option of following their creative spark and becoming a full-time designer.

“How can we strive to strengthen community in online spaces? How can we think about what web design looks like in terms of safety, care and accessibility?”

From a curated internet to a beautifully chaotic one

As a web designer, Annika likes to think of the internet through the metaphor of a digital garden. “The internet is not this clean, precise space,” they explain. “Instead, like a garden, it’s messy, communal and requires nonlinear growth.” Annika wishes to embrace the chaos of the online world. “We’re living in an extremely curated age, but I want to talk about the mess of the internet.”

For Annika, this messiness means creating web experiences that are loose and exploratory. They aim for the opposite of perfectionism and prefer designs that don't guide visitors through each and every step. “The user should be free to go wherever they want, and to connect with whomever they want.” Annika hopes that this approach will allow for web design to cultivate more meaningful human experiences and connection.

“I love that you can have an entire world on a website,” says Annika. They appreciate how anyone can build their own space online, serving as little worlds of self-expression. “What's really exciting to me about the web is exploring these new ways that we can connect to each other, be there for each other and for ourselves,” Annika remarks. “There are infinite possibilities in that realm. And that's what's really tight to me.”

A selection of typographical designs by Annika Hansteen-Izora
Typographical work by Annika Hansteen-Izora.

“We're focused on connecting people of color to the things that they love and through that, connecting with each other.”

Carving out online spaces

One way in which Annika attempts to put these different ideas into practice is through their role as Designer and Creative Director at the social platform Somewhere Good. “We're focused on connecting people of color to the things that they love and through that, connecting with each other,” Annika says.

Their work at Somewhere Good revolves around the mission to bring joy into people's lives through the screen. “What are the ways we can play with the capabilities of a phone or a desktop to bring out joy? Everyday, I keep discovering new ways to mess with the screen that can bring something really cool out.”