Is design magic?
It might feel like magic, when you immediately know how to use something you've never used before, when you're able to easily understand information you need to make important decisions, when a book cover stirs deep feelings.
But the act of designing isn't magic. It's about wanting to create a great experience for someone else. That's what I do, and I can help you do it too.
“Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.”
I'm a designer, artist, zine-maker, GIF connoisseur, and educator based in Oakland, CA. I help nonprofits, government agencies, and organizations working towards social justice communicate more effectively and design awesome things.
Most recently, I was the lead visual designer at Code for America, and completed the Code for America fellowship in 2014. Before that, I was the lead designer at CommunicateHealth, a health education and communication firm specializing in improving health literacy through user-centered design, policy, research, and content development.
Speaking & Teaching
I specialize in design workshops for non-designers.
I can present on topics such as: the challenges and opportunities of designing in government, storytelling and presentation design, design 101 for activists, design for health literacy, board game design for social change, public typography, how to embark on a circus tour in a vegetable oil powered school bus, and more…
Past Speaking Engagements
Design: Your Civic Duty
Bend, OR, October 2016, Bend Design Conference
You Can Design Better Government (Keynote talk)
November 2015, Code for Japan Summit, Tokyo, Japan
Visual Communication 101: Writing and Designing Instructions
September 2015, Code for America Summit, Oakland, CA
How to Prevent Your Phone from Stealing Your Soul
September 2015, Code for America Summit – Ignite, Oakland, CA
How To Design How-Tos
April 2015, Civic Design Camp, Chicago, IL
Tear Down, Build Up: YOU Can Design Better Health Information
September 2014, Code for America Summit, San Francisco, CA
Hack Your City
September 2013, TEDx Shelburne Falls, Shelburne Falls, MA
Reader-Centered Design for Health Communication
May 2013, Healthcare Experience Design Conference, Boston, MA
Arts and Activism Panel Member
April 2011, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, Amherst, MA
Graphic Design 101 for Activists
November 2009, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Conference, Amherst, MA
I've worked with nonprofits, cities, federal government agencies, and media organizations, including: Code for America, City of Long Beach, CA, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action, National Day of Civic Hacking, Hampshire College, National Priorities Project, No More Nice Girls Productions, and more. Are you next?
Want to see what I've been up to professionally? Check out my LinkedIn profile.
“Molly has a true talent and passion for simple, clear, beautiful, and delightful designs, and a very unusual ability to teach these skills to others. She has helped many government partners level up their design skills. A lovely teammate and an excellent, excellent designer.”
- Cyd Harrell, Former Product Director, Code for America
Hilarious iPhone Wallpapers Remind You To Look At Your Screen Less (Huffington Post, 2015)
Could These Simple Phone Backgrounds Be What Finally Breaks Your Phone Addiction? (Fast Company, 2015)
Typography Made of Everything But Ordinary Ink (Fast Company, 2014)
Co-opoly: It's Like Monopoly, But Better (The Guardian, 2012)
Why do I do what I do?
Maybe it started when I was 10 years old, and I found a treasure map on the beach. My brother and I unburied the lost treasure of Pirate Captain Barnacle Beard in a cave on the Oregon Coast.
The details in the whole experience — the weathered, burnt map, the handwriting that totally belonged to a haggard pirate captain, the clues that matched perfectly with the environment, the coins in the treasure chest from all over the world — made it so believable. I didn't realize until years later that my parents carefully planned the whole adventure.
The attention to detail and craftsmanship my parents put into creating an amazing experience for me made me want to create amazing experiences for other people.
Maybe it started when I was 11, and I admired all the tchotchkes hanging in the cubicles of the advertising agency I visited on a school field trip. Colorful wooden toys, movie posters from every era, drawings and doodles on every color of sticky note. They showed us beautiful posters, TV spots, and other eye candy the creative team designed for major global brands.
I thought working at a creative agency would be the most exciting job in the world... but I didn't want to sell people stuff they didn't need.
Maybe it started when I was 12, and I redesigned the cover of my favorite book, Beatlesongs. I was obsessed with learning the history behind every song by the Beatles, but the cover had terrible typography and I felt it didn't capture the breadth of the Beatles aesthetic. So I designed my own version, and pasted it to the book.
I know not to judge a book by it's cover, but I can't help thinking about how everything around me could be easier to understand, more effective, and more beautiful.