Team : Work

Staff Interviews

Melissa Burt

Interview with Melissa About Communications & Design

June 23, 2021
Melissa is our resident graphic design guru and the mother of four rambunctious kids. We sat down with her at the end of the 2021 school year to talk design, inspiration and parenting through covid.
Melissa Burt
Melissa Burt

What kind of communications project do you most enjoy executing? 

I really love being brought in from the very beginning planning stages to work on a large, multi-faceted campaign and seeing it through to the end.  It’s especially enjoyable if the work includes photography, and I get to go out into the field. Several years ago, I worked on the launch of a program called Willamette Promise through Willamette ESD in Oregon, and I got to go out to schools to take pictures of kids involved in the program for campaign posters. We interviewed them and wrote up their stories. I love meeting the kids that our work supports and the schools in which they learn.

What kind of communications project is most challenging for you? 

Logo design has never been my favorite. There are just so many possibilities, and the blank page can be really intimidating. It also is incredibly time consuming, and I am used to cranking things out quickly and multi-tasking. I am starting to appreciate it more though, thanks to a Branding Query that Heidi created to establish a direction for branding and logo design. When a logo and brand come together and I deliver the final product, it’s very rewarding.

We’ve talked about what communications you enjoy producing, but what about being on the receiving end? What is your favorite way to receive information? 

Oh, I love a good infographic. I’m a rare breed of creative person who also loves numbers, so it’s awesome to see numbers and information represented in a visual way. The most beautiful ones are about bizarre subjects like cheese or Star Trek, which I think is a lot easier to make interesting and beautiful than, say, school funding, but I just love them no matter what the subject.

Okay, so what is your LEAST favorite way to receive information? 

You mean besides being shouted at from across the house by one of my children?

I would have to say video. Don’t get me wrong, I love video as an art form. I even did a video portion of my master’s thesis (which happened to be on the ghost in Hamlet), but I don’t like getting information from video, unless it is visual in nature (like a new school tour). 

For one, I’m impatient, and I like to get the information I’m looking for as quickly as possible. I’m always thinking, “skip to the end!” [British accent] I mean, why bury important information in a video? And half the time I get annoyed because the video doesn’t actually have the info I’m looking for. One of my kids’ principals used to only send video updates each week, and I never watched them. Who wants to just watch some guy stand there and talk for five minutes? When they finally would send text digests of the video, I was so relieved.

Okay, I’m going on a rant here, but there’s another reason I don’t like video: There is always someone talking (or shouting or crying or screaming) in the background at my house (see aforementioned loud kids). And if I am watching something, they are also likely to come piling in my lap to want to watch too. It’s chaos. Closed captioning is my friend.

It sounds like being a parent is a large part of your life. Aside from the stress of working from home during covid school closures, how has parenting impacted your work? 

Right now, each of my kids attend a different school, so I see a wide variety of school and district communications. Working in education at this time in my life when I am raising kids is really the perfect fit for me because when I am creating something for a parental audience, I can very easily put myself in the shoes of parents receiving communications and ask myself, “Is this something I would want to read if I got it in the mail? Is it understandable, yet also informative?” 

Melissa homeschooling her kindergartener and working during covid.

What inspires you creatively? 

I actually get a lot of creative inspiration from children’s picture books. I love them. Picture books that make use of interesting perspectives, have bold use of color and type or interesting phrasing are my favorite. I think the process that children’s book authors and illustrators use to distill ideas and make them beautiful and easy to understand has a nice parallel to the kind of work that good communicators do.

The view from the mower (with an apprentice).

You juggle so much every day between work and home; what do you do to decompress? 

When it’s nice outside I like to garden, take a walk on my property or throw a frisbee for the dog. Being outside is such a great brain reset. We also have a lot of lawn to maintain, so I spend lots of meditative time on the riding lawn mower. When it’s rainy outside, I like to soak in a hot bath. Some of my best ideas have come from the bathtub or the lawn mower! 

What clients are saying

Melissa works with a variety of district clients from across the state as well as many internal programs and departments. Read about what some of them have to say about working with her!

“This is stunningly amazing. I’m always in awe of what you’re able to do with the unorganized rough ideas! I love the overall look and the layout.“

Lester Brown

Director of Communication and Technology, Washougal School District

“I don’t think I’ve ever liked a headshot in my life, and I actually like this one. Thank you!“

Pranjali Upadhyay

Integrated Curriculum Specialist, ESD 112 Career Readiness & STEM Initiatives

“I wanted to let you know that the Ellensburg bond did pass with 62.64%!! Thank you for your part in helping to make this happen. Such a great boost for our community.”

Kathy Hagbo

Assistant to the Superintendent, Ellensburg School District

“I am SOOO excited to use this template, you have no idea. I wish we had a RFQ coming up! This will seriously make my life a thousand times easier, so thank you so so so much for this!”

Leah Scouller

Construction Services Specialist, ESD 112 Construction Services Group

About the TEAM Member

Melissa Burt

Melissa Burt

After spending the first chunk of my design career in marketing and the private sector, I was happy to use my skills for good when I joined the ESD in 2015. My role on our communications team tends to be complex problem solving and distillation. Nothing makes me happier than taking a massive amount of boring, complicated, jargon-filled text and numbers and transforming them into something beautiful, informative and easy to digest.