Designing the Future
Written by Caroline Mason
Designing the future from Jamaica to Missouri… and back again
Gabrielle McKittrick knew she wanted to be an interior designer the minute she stepped foot on Anderson University’s campus.
But design was not always her dream. In high school, McKittrick had her heart set on being a teacher because she wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives. During her junior year, McKittrick realized that teaching was not the way she wanted to make her mark.
“My mom suggested interior design when I suddenly decided I didn’t want to be a teacher,” McKittrick said. She chose to tour universities that had interior design programs. After several schools left her unimpressed, McKittrick visited AU. “Once I toured AU and saw their interior design program, then I was like, ‘Definitely, this is what I want to do.’”
McKittrick recalls being highly impressed by the professionalism displayed at AU, from the tour guides to the professors to the dean of the School of Interior Design, Anne Martin.
As part of her campus visit, McKittrick saw Anderson University School of Interior Design alumni projects. One stuck with her: an alumna developed a concept of renovating a train car for people who had to use the train to commute daily. The goal was to make the train car a usable and welcoming space to positively impact the commuters.
“I never thought about how much you could impact the community through interior design,” McKittrick said. “That was definitely the push for me wanting to go into interior design, the fact that I could practically impact everyone. Depending on the space you’re designing, a lot of different people are going to be going through it.”
After being accepted into the Anderson University School of Interior Design, McKittrick’s love for design grew. In 2021, McKittrick landed an internship with St. Louis Design Alliance in St. Louis, Missouri. The summer internship turned into an offer for a full-time position as the lead designer at STLDA after McKittrick graduated in May 2022.
The company’s mission to use design to make a difference in the St. Louis community stood out to McKittrick. She loved being in a city and an office where people came from such a diverse range of backgrounds. McKittrick’s own background as a missionary kid helped her feel right at home in the multicultural environment.
“I feel much more comfortable in a place where a lot of people have different backgrounds and experiences. That’s definitely very evident (at STLDA.) There are like 10 different languages or so spoken in the office,” she said.
‘I never thought about how much you could impact the community through interior design… Depending on the space you’re designing, a lot of different people are going to be going through it.
– Gabrielle McKittrick
Lead designer at STLDA, Class of 2022
From ages 7 to 12, McKittrick and her family lived in Jamaica. Her father had grown up in Jamaica as a missionary kid, too, so the island nation is dear to McKittrick’s heart. She has distinct childhood memories of being out in the beautiful nature and spending time at a local library. “I remember the coolest spaces,” McKittrick said. “Even as a kid, I remember going into certain buildings and just being in awe of, ‘They painted these really amazing trees on the wall!’ So I would love to be able to do that for kids, too.”
McKittrick’s design work is a perfect fusion of her passion for making a difference in children’s lives, her love for Christ, and her creativity. She worked on several projects related to kids and education. STLDA recently designed a school, which gave McKittrick the opportunity to create joy for the kids. “I like to make sure the kids feel excited to be there. There’s a lot of color and a lot of fun shapes,” McKittrick said. A crucial part of her design is making sure the spaces feel “inviting and comfortable to the people who enter them.”
McKittrick’s team also designed a church with a sensory area for children with special needs. It was an enjoyable challenge to figure out how to make lighting, sound, and color work in a space that will serve a variety of people.
“I’m really excited about that because I got to make sure it works for families and individuals who have different needs than I have,” McKittrick said.
McKittrick’s dream is “to design and build a project in Jamaica.” She would love to see places like the library she once loved be redesigned and made inviting for other kids.
McKittrick’s desire to make people feel seen and known through design is a direct result of her faith. “[My faith’s] very integral in what I do,” she said. Her experience as a missionary kid and her time at AU helped shape her into the believer and designer she is today. McKittrick looks to Jesus in her work and hopes that people experience him in the spaces she touches.