James Melzer

James Melzer, User Experience Designer and Information Architect

I've enjoyed 17 years of experience in large-scale information architecture, search, responsive design, and living style guides for design teams. My previous clients include startups, Fortune 500 enterprises, non-profits, government agencies, and a university. I'm an old school IA, with a Master’s Degree in Library/Information Science from the University of Maryland.

Find me at EightShapes or on LinkedIn.

Travel

Traveling is my favorite hobby. In no particular order, here are some places I've enjoyed recently.

London

Royal Medicinal Garden
Queen's Medicinal Garden

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

One of the world's great botanical gardens and a World Heritage Site.

After a quick morning nap to shake off the jet lag, we spent an entire day at Kew Gardens. Kew is massive. We saw perhaps a third of the grounds. The largest of the greenhouses was closed, but we saw a couple others, including a tiny, round water lily house. For me, the most amazing part was the trees, carefully attended for dozens or even hundreds of years. They were huge! Trees with trunks eight and nine feet across. We took a lot of pictures.

Demonstration Garden
Demonstration Garden

Chelsea Flower Show

England's unrivaled celebration of flowers.

We spent a day at the Chelsea flower show. Wow! There are basically three types of displays: massive outdoor demonstration gardens, trade shops, and flower sales displays. All three were equally over the top. We definitely could have taken a second day.

  • Demonstration gardens were either 50'x80' or 20'x20', corporate sponsored, and designed by big-name landscape firms. Most featured sculptures, buildings, and water hazards. One tropical one had a pair of 15' waterfalls. Epic.
  • The shops were set in little temporary buildings outside, instead of the usual trade 'booths' on a convention floor. This meant some of them did crazy things, like set up little gardens and gazebos of their own, competing with the demonstration gardens. Judges rated the booths.
  • And last was the exhibit hall, which was dedicated entirely to flower sales. To say that I've never seen such extravagance doesn't do this justice. The displays were simply unbelievable. Some were sculptural, like a parade float. Some were naturalistic — miniature gardens you could stroll through as though you weren't inside a huge convention building. Some were detailed, like a huge terrarium of mosses and ferns. And some were simply a flower display taken to its logical extreme, like the tulip seller who filled a 40'x40' space with dozens of chest-high planters, exploding with thousands upon thousands of perfect cut flowers.

Pro tip: on the last day of the event, the vendors sell off virtually everything. Not ideal if you're getting on a plane the next day, but pretty neat if you're a local.

Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are as quaint and picturesque as advertised. An entire region of little distinctive towns surrounded by fields and pastures.

Blenheim Palace was the home of Winston Churchill and the hereditary Duke of Marlborough. Ho-ly cow. Clearly it was in direct competition with Schoenbrunn and Versailles for Europe's most lavish palace. Except not the King's, oddly. But the scale of it was just amazing. It had a mini railroad to tour the grounds. Gentlemen were playing cricket on one of several pitches on the back lawn, which stretched as far as the eye could see. There was a food festival on while we were there. The place was so large, we never saw it.

Wales

Waterfall

Betws-y-Coed

Wales was green, wild, and gorgeous.

We did a good bit of back roads driving in northern Wales, which was slow going, but low-traffic and gorgeous. Snowdonia, the mountainous national park in the north of Wales, was absolutely spectacular. Every curve offered a new spectacular vista, especially in the northern mountains. The roads were insanely thin and bordered immediately on either side with short stone walls. Wales must have a hundred sheep per person. We encountered a few intrepid fluff balls who had escaped their walls and were idly munching tufts of whatever along the road.

The weather was more or less what we expected — unpredictable but grand.

Cardiff

Later, we took a day-trip to Cardiff, in the south of Wales. Highlights included the spectacular Cardiff Castle (think: Neuschwanstein meets the Heast Mansion) and The Doctor Who Museum.

Caernarfon Castle
Overlooking St. George's Bay

Caernarfon

A huge, grim castle overlooking a quaint walled town.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

UNESCO calls Conwy one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe"

Bath

Garden

Parade Gardens

A lovely sunken park with surprisingly rich tea service.

Highlights: Lovely walkability, pubs, the Pump Room, a legion of Norland nannies, and new historical Roman Baths exhibit.

Iceland

Glacial Lagoon
Following the ice-breakers on a glacial lagoon

Jökulsárlón

Iceland's other-worldly mood reached its peak on the glacier-filled water during a perpetual sunset.

An adventure that started with the words, "you know, for the same price as a B&B on the Eastern Shore, we could go to Iceland". Northern lights. Glaciers. Volcanos. An amazing country and a perfect vacation.

Just before this trip, Apple added the panoramic option to iPhone. I went a little crazy.

Games

What am I playing right now?

10 Years of the Witcher
Review: Polygon (image: CD Projekt RED)

Witcher 3

Widely heralded as the greatest video game ever made. No disagreement from me.

Viticulture
Review and image credit: Shut Up and Sit Down

Viticulture

My current fav worker placement board game. Hat tip to Dan Brown for the introduction.

Mournhold

Elder Scrolls Online

The latest chapters in the Elder Scrolls series, unveiling the entire continent of Tamriel for the first time.