James Melzer

James Melzer User Experience Designer and Information Architect

I've been designing digital products for about 20 years. Due to their complexity, all but the simplest digital products are made by teams. I've served on teams as a design leader, a facilitator, an information architect, an interaction designer, or a researcher. Many products I've worked on have been design systems – products used to make other products. My 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 @ EightShapes | LinkedIn.


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



Sacred Valley

A vibrant, sprawling valley of towns and farms with a backdrop of well-preserved Inca ruins and epic mountains. And yes — before you ask — the sky was really that color.

We only spent two days visiting sites along the Sacred Valley and barely scratched the surface. The four showcase sites we managed to see were: the Moray agricultural lab, the Maras salt ponds, ruins at Pisac (above), and ruins at Ollantaytambo. The sites are remote, connected by dirt roads over steep, rough terrain. However, there are fields and grazing animals all thoughout the valley, and evidence of human occupation everywhere you look.

The Moray site was particularly enthralling. Archeologists think it was used as a agricultural lab. The tight terraces create sharp shadows that offer a 27° F temperature difference in the 97' from top to bottom. Soil samples include pollen from other regions of Peru, inspiring a theory that all the soil was imported (we heard this about Machu Picchu, too). The Moray is bigger than it looks in the photos - zoom in and you'll see tiny specs of people along the left side.

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Checked off the bucket list

All our Peru pics


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 perfectly 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.


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 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.


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


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"



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.


What am I playing right now?

Aloy on a mesa
No Clip: 'Making of' Documentary (image: my PS4)

Horizon: Zero Dawn

A gorgeous action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic future. Fight robot dinosaurs!

Star Citizen Alpha
Drake Cutlass at a moon outpost

Star Citizen

A gorgeous, expansive sci-fi sim (...during its messy, perpetual Alpha).