Melissa is an organizer, strategist, designer and an optimist.

After graduating from Georgia Southern University with a BA in Cultural Studies, Melissa spent 5 years in the Pacific Northwest implementing citizen-driven grassroots political campaigns. After working on a very localized level to engage citizens and move specific policy, she is excited to promote a different strategy for influencing the world.

Inspirations include product design so good that you don’t notice it, music, combining work + play, and empowering individuals to ask for more than what they were given in this world. In her spare time, she exercises her inclinations for design through her handmade jewelry line, Stone + Smith.

She sees potential to create positive impact through the systems by which we organize and communicate amongst ourselves which is what brought her to the Austin Center for Design.


Recent Tweets

@melissalynn9: RT @jkolko: Announcing Blackboard's New Learning Experience. Inspiring the world to learn. #BbWorld15. Share what inspires you! http://t.c…

@melissalynn9: Just a few spots left in the #arduino prototyping workshop with @kemcelroy at @AC4D next Sunday! Snag a ticket here:

@melissalynn9: RT @jkolko: Come study design with me at Austin Center for Design's one-year program - - applications due May 1!

@melissalynn9: RT @AC4D: New Blog Post: Alumni Design-a-thon Results

@melissalynn9: It's Monday and this is urgent. Jack White's guacamole recipe:

Recent Blog Posts


Adapt Solutions: An Update

Willy and I are developing an app that simplifies the paperwork side of adoption for families and agencies: Adapt Solutions. Ask anyone who has adopted: paperwork is a headache and amplifies the vulnerability, frustration and emotional turmoil that comes with the territory.

Currently, adoption paperwork is agency-specific, analog and a complete pain. Documents are scanned, mailed, faxed, lost, forgotten and never in the right place. Adoptive parents are burdened by lugging heavy stacks of paperwork to places like the DMV, airports, or even on a roadtrip. Take a look at the image of a users’ to-do list below. He and his partner re-write this list each morning. As you can see, four out of the five tasks relate to paperwork management.

Here are the two big questions put to the test of our pilot: do people feel secure managing personal documents online and is there something comforting about physical paper that adopting parents wouldn’t want to give up?

First: security. When we asked users if they already house secure documents online they at first said no then realized that they are emailing not secured PDF’s on their smart phones daily. The iOS app, as it’s currently envisioned, will have the most recent and up to date security measures.

Second: validity of digital paperwork. The answer here, according to the adoption lawyer we spoke with, is a bit more complicated. There are certain documents demanded in original, notarized form by the courts. There are other documents that are often shared in scanned form. The new politics brought to question by developing technology are still clearing these waters. (For instance, did you know there are now online notaries?) The person who brings this app to life, (see below), will have to keep their fingers to this pulse.

The professional team behind Adapt Solutions is myself, Melissa Chapman, and William Morgan. I’m leading the business and brand development (crafting the narrative, reaching out to pilot participants and community leaders) and Willy is lead on design (in charge of the interaction design, graphics and usability). Over the course of the last 4 weeks we have piloted with 13 users including adoption lawyers, redesigned the entire application 5 times, and presented progress in a client-like setting each week.

Our goal is a clean user interface with basic document sharing functionality. See the latest homescreen below.

We have learned a lot in terms of discipline, working fast, iterating like hell, and the importance of staying flexible.

The biggest takeaway, however, is validation of this need-based technology. * It’s known around these parts that Willy nor I plan to launch this as a business. There have been times, however, where we meet eyes and realize the reality: nobody is doing this and everybody needs this.

That leaves us with an overwhelmingly strong feeling to give this to someone who will bring it to fruition.

Posted in Classes | Leave a comment

That which you should control

There are things you can control and those you shouldn’t. There are things in a design setting that are in flux and those that are fixed. For this last round of position diagrams in Chris Risdon’s Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship class, I attempt to parse out these concepts in relation to where creativity and strategy intersect.

Nigel Cross, in his essay Discovering Design Ability, talks about the importance of creativity and intuition and how the missing ingredient is the designers’ input – that which he calls the ‘ordering principle’. Others refer to this as the ‘design magic’. Another tenant of his argument which I find compelling is how closely the problems and solutions are interwoven. Both can change dynamically, but are tied. We can decide as designers that the solution a client is asking for is answering the wrong question and in turn, design around the proverbial starting point as opposed to an ending one.

In the essay Strategic Intent published by Gary Hamel and K.C. Pralahad, the authors discuss lots of smart ways to arrange a successful team dynamic. They unravel the magic of “motivating people by communicating the value of the target, leaving room for individual and team contribution, sustaining enthusiasm by providing new operational definitions…and using intent consistently to guide resource allocations”. This falls under the ‘not up for debate’ and ‘fixed’ part of the whole in my mind.

In the diagram below, I’ve attempted to show the relationship between operational procedures, the in-flux states of problem and solution and the four standing pillars of any design equation: this ‘team enthusiasm’, constraints, strategic intent, and the ‘ordering principle’.

In a business setting, it would be natural to first think about controlling the amount of staff time and resources spent. In a design world, while those things need to be managed efficiently, it’s not where we look first.

This is my recipe for attacking design situations with a balance of creativity and strategy, both necessary parts of the concoction.



Posted in Classes | Leave a comment

Customer Service Blueprint: an exploratory exercise

Influenced by both a reroute in research halfway through the quarter and an inspiring batch of preliminary research, our customer blueprint represents a fantastical dream state of all of the various ways in which the space could be positively designed. It’s unrealistic in nature but proved a helpful generative exercise to help us think through the possibilities. Insights that guided us include:

1. adopting a child is the most emotionally vulnerable you’ll ever be. The language used only enforces that.
2. adoptive parents want to feel in control of something they’ll never have complete control over
3. adoptive families are fighting upstream against a culture that sees them as broken
4. your love as an adoptive parent has to overcome the child’s feeling of abandonment

The blueprint is designed in service to the adoptive family. Though nebulous in concept, what makes this distinct is that nobody in the space is currently playing a holistic support role for the adoptive family. The closest role within the adoptive ecosystem is the agency case worker who oversees all steps, yet doesn’t automatically assume the role of advocate. This service would be both a roadmap and an advocate.

The image below outlines the unique touchpoints that we could design around when we get to synthesis.

The big question is whether or not an online service can play a supportive enough role to satisfy the dearth of emotional assurance that currently exists and what kind of customer service would be needed in order to do so. We’re considering both the role of actual human interaction with the adopting couple as well as physical products that could be mailed at various points in the process.

Posted in Classes | Leave a comment

Course Scheduler: Time to flip the on switch?

Here is the last in a series of six iterations done under Professor Kolko’s IDSE 201 class.  The following wireframes outline a blueprint of an app that would lead a student through signing up for classes.


Posted in Classes | Leave a comment