102. Janna DeVylder & Steve Baty

The Iowa Idea: Janna DeVylder & Steve Baty

“There’s no hero in solving complex challenges.”

In this episode Iowa Idea Podcast, I’m joined by Janna DeVylder and Steve Baty of Meld Studios, an award-winning service design consultancy in Australia. Janna, who grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and graduated from The University of Iowa, is a Founder, Director and Principal Designer at Meld. Steve, one of Meld’s co-founders, is a highly experienced and seasoned leader in the design space. Both Steve and Janna have served in leadership roles for the IxDA, the international Interaction Design Association.

They share their journey in design leading to co-founding Meld Studios with Iain Barker. We dig into themes of equity and ethics in design and what led to the Meld founders creating an employee-owned trust, built on themes of longevity and equity for all “Meldsters.” I really appreciated their thoughtfulness and vulnerability in describing this latest phase of the business, as it’s still what Janna describes as a “living experiment.”

We dig into themes of equity and curiosity, as well as the traditional, French sense of a salon – an event that entertains and educates. I appreciated Janna and Steve navigating the time zone differences between Sydney and Iowa City to make this session happen. We were able to talk about the international connection to RAGBRAI. I also appreciated Janna and Steve bearing with me as we explored idiomatic expressions and the differences in English for Australians and Americans as we explore the concept of “cutting the tall poppy.” Perhaps Steve was playing a straight bat when we talked about midwestern “salads.” I loved Steve and Janna’s personal approaches for getting unstuck in their work.

It was an honor and absolute pleasure having Janna and Steve join me on the show, as I’ve been a fan of their work since I first met Steve in 2016. Thanks Janna and Steve for taking the time and sharing your perspectives. I hope you enjoy the episode.

About Janna

Janna is a Founder, Director and Principal Designer at Meld Studios, an award-winning Australian service design consultancy. Meld’s focus is on helping organizations to co-design better policies, services, systems, decision-making and ways of working with their customers and their people.

In addition to managing Meld and leading design projects, Janna and her co-founders have guided Meld to become the first Australian-based organization that is employee-owned by trust, and are looking to find ways to support other small and medium-sized businesses to do the same.

Janna has extensive experience in the non-profit space, serving as President of the international Interaction Design Association for three years during a period of massive change and growth. She sat on their non-profit Board of Directors for four years, growing membership from 7,000 to 70,000 and global local groups from 12 to 70. She currently serves as a Good Design Australia ambassador and has served as a judge of the international Good Design Awards.

About Steve

Steve Baty is a highly experienced and seasoned leader in the design space. He has over 25 years of varied hands-on experience as a business founder, designer, keynote speaker, awards judge, IxDA president, conference organiser and speaker, and UX Bookclub founder.

He co-founded Meld Studios in 2009, the same year he co-founded and became conference director at UX Australia. Rising to be president of IxDA Global 2012 to 2014, he still managed to fit in dozens of conference presentations across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, including a keynote slot at Interaction South America in Brazil in 2017.

A key contributor to UX design excellence, Steve has loaned his expertise multiple times as an awards judge at the Interaction Awards, Good Design Awards, Superannuation Excellence Awards and the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.

Steve has a passion for improving our society and the services we interact with on a daily basis, whether that be our financial services and payment systems; the train you take to work; or our tax system. He wants to ensure everything we use is designed with care and consideration for – and with – the people who use them every day.






Episode produced by Spark Consulting Group (www.inspiredbyspark.com) in Iowa City, with support from Executive Podcast Solutions (https://www.executivepodcastsolutions.com/).

The Iowa Idea Podcast theme music written and performed by Paisley Bible (https://paisleybible.bandcamp.com/).