I first met Audrey in Santa Monica, through mutual friends. We bonded over fancy pizza and discussed all of the different projects going on in our lives, and she kept telling me about all of her pursuits to inspire society through creativity and imagination. Soon after, I stayed with her in Paris and was able to be introduced into her world, even if for a moment – she brought me to an underground creative space where there are no rules, and the tools to create are limitless. You want to paint all over the walls? Go for it. You want to play with 3D mapping or chalks? Do. It was incredibly eye-opening to see this network of people that I never knew existed, embracing a creative lifestyle that I otherwise thought was reserved for younger walks of life. These people were so full of ideas, and Audrey is no different. Except her ideas come to life, and this interview is where you’ll get a first look at those ideas, and a peek into the life of the woman herself. Meet Audrey Richard-Laurent.
LF: Audrey! Where are you from? What is your background?
ARL: The short story is that I grew up in Brittany, a part of France that has its own very strong and rich culture. At an early age, I was already drawing a lot and making my own clothes, then as a teenager I oriented myself into applied art and was also a semi-pro dancer in a circus. I later went to Paris to study textile design, then industrial design. This was followed by a little jump to Switzerland to familiarize myself with augmented reality. Then I launched my own design consulting practice for seven years, and additionally eventually transitioned to living a nomadic lifestyle. As a side project, for the past few years, I have ran a street art movement called, “We Are Chalkers.” I try to use my creativity and skill set to make the world a better place.
LF: As a creative and nomad, what draws you to different places? Why California and LA?
ARL: I mainly choose places that offer a favorable environment to mingle and connect, with outstanding and international experts and creatives minds, which leads to further collaborations. Finding places in the nature where I can resource myself and recharge are equally important factors. I feel in California I can have both!
In the past, however, I first traveled for specific projects. Then when I gained experience, trust and flexibility with my clients, I was able to work remotely and I started to choose places for the lifestyle and inspiration that they provided. Because of this, I spend more and more time in the Scandinavian countries, Berlin, London, Spain… as well as San Francisco and more recently LA.
What I like about California is that it is a hub where people from all over the world converged, where tech meets creation, where cities with strong culture and good infrastructures are imbricated with nature.
When people ask why I enjoy California so much, I always say that it is also for the state of mind that people have here – it’s much more open. Because of the types of ideas and projects that I am working on, people in France tend to say “it’s crazy and it won’t work.” However in California, people are much more responsive to creativity and their response is “it’s crazy, how can I help? How can I be a part of this?”
LF: What are you working on right now that you are very excited about?
ARL: As an “Experience Designer” with a multi-faceted background, I have been creating products and services across several industries with a specific interest in health and behavior change. While designing these tools to empower people, I realized that people were always interrupted, tired, over solicited, distracted… so even contributing with new products with the purpose of being meaningful and really beneficial for a user was a real challenge.
I recently founded a startup call AWAKEFUL. It is a mobile app to keep people in the flow. It is meant to help keep you in your optimal state where you feel and perform your best. The first product is dedicated to challenge the experience of waking up, by using secrets ingredients such as brain-hacking techniques like mindfulness and artificial intelligence. It is a fascinating field to understand how the brain works and how creative experiences can impact behavior.
At the moment, I have different hats between designer and entrepreneur. My role as a whole is to bring the creative vision that I have into a meaningful and delightful product and experience for users. With that said, it is only possible to achieve that with a good team that is complimentary and excited about the project – finding the right team is still a crucial step.
LF: As a creative, what makes you wake up everyday? What is driving you? How do you combine and intertwine creativity and entrepreneurship in your work/life balance? (Wouldn’t we artists like to know!)
ARL: I really believe that we as designers have a responsibility to those whom we design for. I have the willingness to empower and enrich the lives of many people, not just an elite few.
The reason that I design and work in this field is to have a transformative impact to those most in need, at the scale and in the shape that they require. This approach has led me through a variety of fields ranging from textile design to medical imagery to symbiotic biochemistry, healthcare-focused design, experiments in augmented reality and eventually interactive design. To me, creation and design are not only reduced to esthetics or style, but are also tools to create delightful and meaningful functionalities.
In my eyes, creativity and entrepreneurship are complementary and nurture each other. However, when I was first starting out in the field, as I was more of a creative than a business person, I didn’t know how to scale and sell a product… but by having a thirst to learn and being surrounded by uplifting and knowledgeable people, I am slowly becoming more comfortable with taking risks and, the whole process. Being teachable and having the desire to learn is key in combining the business and creative worlds.
As for life balance, when you are constantly generating new ideas and new ways of doing things, everyday is a roller-coaster and a search to discover what it is that the passion is driving you towards. It’s a thrill!
LF: What about your lifestyle? You have a very nomadic spirit, but how do you balance that lifestyle with work? Is there a harmonious way to live in both worlds?
ARL: Good question! It still feels like a work in progress. Firstly, I learned to design my life around serendipity, meaning that I know what my purpose is, I have my vision and my priorities, but I don’t need to control everything. Thanks to my laptop, I can work from everywhere and other than good wifi, calm and a shower, I don’t need much. After years on the road, I have discovered that I am pretty flexible and resourceful, and if I need to be very productive, I know the places that are better fit to go to. As for a routine, I don’t have a strong one (yet) but I do have some pillar elements for leading a more balanced life. The most important ingredients are: friends & family, taking time to nurture yourself: good vegetarian food, nature walks and daily meditation, and enjoying (new) experiences.
However, with that said, there are some downsides to having a nomadic lifestyle. Personal relationships, for example, are sometimes reduced to digital ones, as my family and close friends are far away. This can be very difficult. Additionally, when you start a new adventure (or venture) everything needs to be done from scratch. It is just as exciting as it is sometimes overwhelming, which is why it is so important to find a balance, as your work and your personal life are so intertwined.
LF: Where else do you find inspiration?
ARL: I find inspiration in new experiences, for example. It could be while traveling or just saying “yes” to unexpected situations. I am driven by my curious mind, which helps drive me to these situations, thankfully. Additionally, my interactions with people are very important to me. I am motivated to mingle and mix with those who want to break the traditional, cross‑fertilize, and leverage technologies where paradigm‑shaping breakthroughs are most required for positive impact.
I am also broadly connected to the design and tech ecosystems. The communities I belong to, like The Interaction Design Association and Thousand Network, a community of game changers, are built on a knowledge and experience-sharing spirit to create strong connections and have big impacts in their fields. They are game changers. I am lucky to be surrounded by many skilled people who share similar values and are all eager to have the same positive impact. It’s like having a family all over the world who support and share the same desire to create, think out of the box, and be risk taking. This in itself inspires me!
LF: So tell us – what is the story behind « We Are Chalkers »?
ARL: We Are Chalkers is a side project I start a few years ago to CREATE A SPACE THAT CONNECTS PEOPLE AND STRETCHES MINDS. This is how it works:
During the night, a group of “chalkers” occupy the asphalt of your neighborhood and express themselves by drawing and writing. Now imagine exiting your home in the morning and being caught in another universe. It’s a completely ephemeral and unique moment and as soon as the rain comes everything vanishes, offering a brand new canvas.
I started We Are Chalkers because I believe that we are all creatives, but for different reasons due to socio-cultural pressure, we don’t practice, or we stopped practicing using our creativity. I wanted to reintroduce that aspect of creativity into other people’s lives. I believe creativity needs a stimulus, and being confronted with new experiences opens minds to different ways of going about life. I think it’s a very healthy and necessary experience that we don’t focus on often enough.
In conclusion, my vision with We Are Chalkers is to offer playful and collaborative moments, all while transforming the asphalt and cities into temporary creations all over the world. Join us for the next one and find us on Facebook! Facebook.com/we-are-chalkers.
LF: Current goals for your future?
ARL: Currently I am focusing on building AWAKEFUL, the app. I plan to spend more time in California as it is a very fertile ground creatively and personally. My creative and entrepreneurial appetite is dedicated to creating products and experiences to empower and to enrich the lives of many people, not just an elite few; this is what I want to address by focusing on health, a fertile breeding ground of opportunities.