Meet the Story Leaders: Desiree Lukowiak


Desiree Lukowiak is one of our incredible Spatial Storytellers here at Storyland Studios. An invaluable part of our team since 2017, Desiree brings a wealth of worldbuilding knowledge to the table–and we mean that quite literally. 

As an avid gamer and tabletop RPG enthusiast, Desiree has been enthusiastically immersing herself in interactive experiences for most of her life. Her interest in media and gaming, including a deep love for anime, led her first to a career in graphic design before she joined the Storyland team.

“I’ve been playing video games since I was five years old,” Desiree says. “I remember playing Frogger on my parents’ computer and trying to learn how to type. The addiction started from there.”  

Desiree is particularly passionate about Dungeons and Dragons™. As a Dungeon Master, she was inspired to create her own 10-hour adventure module called Heisel: Forgotten Legacy. 

“The story centered around a small mining town in these frosty mountains,” she says. “I got to flesh out the city and the different characters, and then Dungeon Masters could take their players through and discover this place.” 

Throughout the story development process, Desiree wrote over 25,000 words that comprised the game’s technical rules, plus the quest and world narratives. She created the concepts and designs for three game levels, the town of Heisel, a new monster race (frost goblins!), and more than 15 NPCs (non-player characters). The module delivered detailed gameplay for players looking for a new side quest with stunning graphic design, pages styled after illuminated manuscripts, and even a history of Heisel itself. 

Desiree describes the harrowing but rewarding worldbuilding process as a “fever dream of six to eight months.” In addition to developing a well-rounded world and story for Heisel, she also led and interviewed quality assurance testers to help her refine the product. She created a bug system to help the team better categorise the issues they encountered, then resolved each bug as it arose. 


Next Quest: Loading… 

In 2017, Desiree was working as a graphic designer when she decided to follow her passion for worldbuilding into a new career. She looked to the video game industry, where she began making connections and gathering information. Ultimately, she wanted to use her combined experiences to make the pivot. 

“I really wanted to get into narrative design,” she says. “I started looking around to see how I could blend my skills as a graphic designer, Dungeon Master, and game writer.” 

Desiree’s search led her to Storyland Studios, where she applied for a position as a Spatial Storyteller. Although she had never worked in themed entertainment, her unique blend of skills perfectly matched the kind of projects our team tackles. She had a wealth of experience and insight to bring to the table, and she hit the ground running immediately. 

Since joining Storyland, Desiree has been involved in a number of exciting spatial projects (some of which are top-secret–shh!). In addition to creating imaginative, thematic spaces for children. Some of these themes include a vintage, National Park-inspired environment, a mountain climbing expedition (complete with a base camp), and a nostalgic lakeside retreat. 


Leveling Up With Every Adventure

One of Desiree’s favourite projects was for Anime Expo 2022 in Los Angeles–North America’s largest anime convention. Every year, it sees about 150,000 visitors over the course of four days. Anime Expo needed to upgrade their signage to a uniform look and feel, as they had amassed a collection of signs and maps over two decades that all looked different. 

“There was no cohesion,” Desiree says. “It was so difficult to navigate the expo and understand the signage. The Los Angeles Convention Center is confusing enough if you’re unfamiliar with it.” 

Desiree and her team created a new wayfinding system that leveraged Anime Expo’s new branding (designed by Blind). The new signs were colourful and eye-catching and helped visitors easily locate themselves on the expo map. In addition, our team created placemaking and event branding logos, including Desiree’s favourite, the Butler Cafe logo. 

Butler cafes are popular themed dining experiences in Japan. Staff members dress as butlers and maids, offering enthusiastic guests the royal treatment. Diners can enjoy English tea, a light snack of scones or crumpets, or even a full meal Victorian England-style. Anime Expo’s Butler Cafe isn’t a restaurant, but it does feature some top-notch entertainment and the aesthetics of Japan’s famous themed cafes. 

In addition to signage and logo design, “I got to really get wild and creative with the typography and iconography,” Desiree says. “We got to design merchandise for them, which I’d never done before. It was just so much fun.” 


What’s Next for Desiree and Storyland? 

Over the past few years, Storyland Studios has leveraged its expertise in theme park design and immersive experiences to expand into the gaming industry. We’re on the leading edge of integrating video game IP and design principles, with a number of exciting projects in the works. One notable example is our partnership with video game giant Ubisoft. Storyland is designing the first-ever Ubisoft Entertainment Center at France’s Studios Occitanie, the first in an incredible ongoing collaboration with the company. Planned attractions include indoor entertainment centres (IECs) and full-scale theme parks featuring some of Ubisoft’s most iconic stories, worlds, and characters, like Assassin’s Creed®, Just Dance®, The Crew®, Tom Clancy’s The Division®, Watch Dogs®, and many more.

For her part, Desiree is working on several thrilling and innovative projects that have yet to be announced. One she’s particularly delighted about is an upcoming museum exhibit, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is set for installation later this year. 

“It’s a really fun blend of physical and interactive space, so you can actually experience the museum from home,” Desiree says. “It’s the same content, design, and interactive that you’ll be able to experience both in person and online. 

“I got to art direct and tell the story of that exhibit, and I can’t wait for people to see it–and to experience it for myself in person.” 

According to Desiree, there are also a few top-secret, cutting-edge theme park projects in the works that Storyland is proud to be part of. 

“I can’t share more than that, but I’m really excited,” she says. “It’s really cool stuff.” 


Final Thoughts: Follow Your Passions 

For those who may want to use their existing talents to forge a new career path, Desiree says it’s important to take note of your passions and focus on developing them. She adds that you don’t necessarily have to have a specific list of degrees, certifications, or accolades to get where you want to be in your career.

“I am not a traditional artist; I didn’t have an extensive art education. And for a long time, I thought that was a detriment,” Desiree says. “My portfolio was small, but I was able to showcase my creativity and leverage the hobbies that I have.

“I showcased my passions in creative ways, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a fancy education. What matters was that I showed my passion, that I’ve been learning and growing, and that I have the skill sets to tell stories to build worlds. I just did it a different way than other people do. 

“For a long time, that was a stumbling block because I thought I wasn’t good enough. And that’s not true.”

Desiree says that there are multiple paths to each destination and that it’s possible to build something amazing from the things you’re passionate about. Ultimately, it’s important to keep moving forward and never give up.

“I was able to use my passion for D&D and my skills in graphic design to land a career that I didn’t even know existed until I started searching for worldbuilding jobs,” she says. “And now, here I am, building worlds for all types of people.” 


About Storyland Studios

Storyland Studios imagines, designs and creates immersive experiences and environments that lift the spirit. The firm was recently slated to design the first-ever Ubisoft Entertainment Center at France’s Studios Occitanie, the first in its ongoing partnership with Ubisoft. Storyland is also heading up master planning for the first-ever Sports Illustrated resorts, and designing for Storyville Gardens, an interactive, story-driven theme park based in Middle Tennessee, and much more. 

In addition to the firm’s exciting recent projects, Storyland has worked alongside some of the world’s most well-known IPs over its twenty-year history. Some of their most notable work includes concepts, designs, scenic fabrication, and themed environments for Marvel, Star Wars, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, The Walt Disney Company, LEGO®, and Trillith Studios. For more information, visit www.storylandstudios.com.


Ben Thompson, Storyland Studios International

Email: ben@storylandstudios.com

International Phone: 0044 1494 732414

Mel McGowan, Storyland Studios West Coast

Email:  mel@storylandstudios.com

U.S. Phone: +1 800-218-1932

Matt Ferguson, Storyland Studios East Coast

Email: mattf@storylandstudios.com

U.S. Phone: +1 800-218-1932