“Melia brought our new brand to market in a way that made our industry take notice, and gave our vision a storyline that began new client conversations. The message, the imagery and brand have all worked as a meaningful message to open new markets and engage new clients.”
- Kevin Arner, President, PaySpan Inc


The rest of the story >
Focusing on the big picture through thought leadership.

Payspan, formerly Payformance has been a successful company in the healthcare payments space for over 20 years but with new leadership, products and market potential they needed a brand that could capitalize on the opportunities ahead. Kevin Arner, the new CEO and I had worked together before and he had already renamed the company and added a new tagline – Empowering The Healthcare Economy. Payspan was not just selling solutions but positioning itself as an industry thought leader.

We were entrusted to create a new brand language that included logo, imagery, web site, exhibit , collateral and video. Kevin Arner wanted something that stood out from the crowd and would let the industry know there was a new approach on the horizon.

We developed a visual language that reflected the problems that would impact the huge healthcare marketplace using dramatic landscapes from the personal portfolios of some of the best photographers around and overlaying diagrammatic solutions.

We also started an ongoing series of video and photos featuring client testimonials to be used for ads, the web, sales presentations and trade shows and we designed/ programmed a new web site using Wordpress / jQuery on a secure server that leveraged all of the artwork and language created.

The new brand was introduced at AHIP with a ground up exhibit design by Mike and fabricated by Design Communications in Orlando. The 20x 30 booth featured a floating light structiure that demanded attention upon entry to the show and included one on one presentation spaces, group seating, a video wall. Mike also executed a series of airport ads and collateral for the show.

Payspan has racked up record sales in 2012 with a combination of leading edge solutions and a brand that is a bold departure from the industry standard.

“Melia brought our new brand to market in a way that made our industry take notice, and gave our vision a storyline that began new client conversations. The message, the imagery and brand have all worked as a meaningful message to open new markets and engage new clients.”
- Kevin Arner, President, PaySpan Inc

Having worked for the Capella Hotel Group for over 7 years we knew the challenge of capturing their very high standards but with a relaxed attitude. A tight budget required tight planning and no mistakes. Capella is successfully using the videos online, for sales presentations and broadcast.
Mike Melia - storyboard, writing, art direction, edit direction
Mike Chase - DP, Editor

capella singapore

The Executive Education Program at Georgia State is a national top 10 program that needed an online brand focused on it’s core curriculum of leadership and innovation. We chose to present an information rich experience that included deep course information, video interviews with faculty and an editorial magazine focused on cutting edge issues and success stories.


Georgia State Executive Education

Buckhead Life has 12 of the top restaurant brands in Atlanta most of which are near icon status. How do we bring them under 1 template system that facilitates easy updates but allows each to retain its individual charcter? We explored many options and landed on a bold, image based design that lets the incredible food and restaurant designs shine.


buckhead life

NCCHR will become a an important international center for the ongoing education and discussion of our rights as human beings. TMG was given the honor of envisioning the philosophy and building process online as the Center looks forward to launch in 2014.



With a wine cellar of over 10,000 bottles, Liberty House restaurants wanted to empower their customers with the ability to find just the right wine to accompany some of the best food in the Southeast.

The rest of the story >


"Choosing Wines at the Touch of a Screen"
NYT.com feature article

"iCellar iPad Rolls Out"
See the Melia blog for more

"The iPad: Birth of a Killer Platform"
Mike and Scott describe how custom iPad (and
new tablet technologies) apps will have a
transformational impact on customer experience
and business strategy.

“Since their debut… the iPads have enthralled customers. And wine purchases shot up overnight, nearly 11 percent per diner.”
When Richard Lewis approached The Melia Group to create a customer wine buying experience on the iPad for his iconic steakhouse, Bone’s (and another of his well-known restaurants, Blue Ridge Grill), we didn’t really know how customers would react. Would they be disinterested or would they be too interested and extend the table stay too long? Would the Bone’s older demographic enjoy it or not find it easy to use? Would the iPads walk out the door?

All of these elements were considered, as we designed the experience.

Bone’s has a wine cellar of over 10,000 bottles; so, it was critical to give users a number of ways to search the wines. Bone’s has a clientele of very informed wine buyers; consequently, we expected that reviews, labels, stories and limited selections would enhance and validate their experience. The iPad design had to fit with the Bone’s brand, work well in low light, yet not be too bright to distract other diners. We also didn’t want to take the waiter or the wine buyers out of their direct interaction with the customer. So, we did not consider automatic order placement (which could be done over a wireless network for other applications).

It was important that the restaurant’s wine buyers could add new vintages, track the number of bottles left with notification to the customer (i.e., if there were three or less bottles available) and make other updates daily. To accommodate these needs, we designed the iPad app to auto-update over a wireless network within each restaurant from a wine inventory database called Cellar Control, which just happened to be developed by Richard and his group. The interface was designed and tested. Adjustments for type size, color and sub navigation were added and the iPads were ready for launch.

Results over the first month were truly surprising. Customers young and old were lauding kudos, pointing to the “cool” factor and great information that broadened their horizons. They only needed the shortest of tutorials and their use of the iPad only extended order time by less than a minute on average.

In fact, a writer for the New York Times was so taken by this innovative iPad experience, that he penned a feature article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dining/15ipad.html.

The best news of all is that customer spend was up an average of 10% more on wine purchases when using the iPad.

We’ll drink to that!

  New York Times
Choosing Wines at the Touch of a Screen
September 13, 2010
Original article >

GIVEN the old-school setting, it could not seem more incongruous.

At Bone’s, Atlanta’s most venerable steakhouse, a clubby place of oak paneling and white tablecloths, the gold-jacketed waiters now greet diners by handing them an iPad. It is loaded with the restaurant’s extensive wine list, holding detailed descriptions and ratings of 1,350 labels.

Once patrons make sense of the touch-pad links, which does not take long, they can search for wines by name, region, varietal and price, instantly educating themselves on vintner and vintage.

Since their debut six weeks ago, the gadgets have enthralled the (mostly male) customers at Bone’s. And to the astonishment of the restaurant’s owners, wine purchases shot up overnight — they were nearly 11 percent higher per diner in the first two weeks compared with the previous three weeks, with no obvious alternative explanation.

Other restaurateurs who are experimenting with iPad wine lists, from Sydney to London to Central Park South, report similar results.

The devices seem to be spurring deeper interest in wine and empowering bolder, more confident selections, they say, potentially revolutionizing the psychology of dining’s most intimidating passage.

“I felt like they had given me the answer sheet to the test,” said Bradley D. Kendall, a Bone’s regular who recently used the iPad to select a 2005 Corté Riva cabernet franc for $102, about 25 percent beyond his usual range.

Mr. Kendall, 43, described himself as a bit of a wine poseur. He has vacationed in Italy and Napa Valley and has a cellar at home, but he cannot remember a label from meal to meal. He knows just enough, or perhaps just little enough, to become suspicious whenever a waiter recommends a vineyard he does not know.

“In the back of your mind,” he said, “you’re always thinking: ‘O.K., is this some kind of used-car special? Did they just get 200 bottles of this?’ ”

But Mr. Kendall said the ratings he found on the iPad — by the wine writer Robert M. Parker Jr. — carried credibility. He decided that the price of the cabernet franc was justified by Mr. Parker’s award of 92 points out of 100. “I found a bottle of wine that I never would have tried, and it was wonderful,” he said.

Some who have used the iPads predict the gradual extinction of the leather-bound wine list, saving reams of paper each week and threatening sommeliers with superfluity.

“If they build one that can open up a bottle of wine, I’m going to be scared to death,” said Fred Dame, one of the country’s 105 master sommeliers and president of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation.

“When I saw this thing and saw the applications, I said, ‘Oh, man, that’s the end of the print shop.” Interactive wine lists began appearing at a smattering of restaurants as early as 2001, and leading wine analysts have for several years offered recommendations via smartphone applications. But Apple’s introduction in April of the iPad, which approximates a conventional wine list in size, shape and weight, has substantially accelerated the trend.

One of Bone’s owners, Susan DeRose, continues to nurse concerns that the iPads will preoccupy diners and depersonalize the fine-dining experience.

“I thought the men were going to be playing with it and not talk to each other,” Ms. DeRose said, acknowledging that her fears are as yet unfounded. “I just think it’s very important for people to connect. You saw ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ We do not want to develop a HAL.”

Bob Reno, the wine steward on a veteran staff, said he and his co-workers had initially been cynical. “We didn’t want to be replaced,” he said. “We had to find a way to make it work in tandem.”

But the waiters quickly came to appreciate the iPad’s ability to monitor and instantly update an inventory of 20,000 bottles, and they found that customers still sought reinforcing advice, particularly about pairing wines with food.

“With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range,” Mr. Reno said. “It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.”

Kevin J. Burns, 49, who selected the wine for a recent business dinner at Bone’s, said the 15 minutes he spent with the iPad helped him choose among several pinot noirs from the same winery. “It’s fabulous to be able to understand not just the prices but the flavors and the nose and the winemaker’s comments,” Mr. Burns said. “The technology allows you to do a heck of a lot more with a wine list than we ever have before.”

Added Cindy A. Mannes, who was seated to his right, “It doesn’t make the sommelier worthless, but we all like to own our decisions.”

Waiters at Bone’s have seen beer and cocktail drinkers switch to expensive bottles of wine after spending time with an iPad. The same has been true at South Gate, a restaurant at the Jumeirah Essex House in New York that introduced an iPad wine list in early July.

“It’s a very good way to stimulate bottle wine sales more than just wine by the glass,” said Winfred van Workum, the hotel’s food and beverage director.

The management at Bone’s bought 30 iPads for $499 each, and another 20 for a sibling restaurant, then converted its own database of label descriptions and ratings into an application, said Richard T. Lewis, who opened the restaurant with Ms. DeRose 31 years ago. Despite the free marketing, Apple declined to provide a volume discount.

Mr. Lewis said he had been pleasantly surprised that none of the iPads had been stolen or damaged by a toppled glass of water. The biggest challenge has been prying them away from customers.

“We’re still concerned,” he said, “about whether you can control your technology without it controlling you.”

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Austin TX based Asterope is bringing a superior instrument cable to market in a product space that is notorious for false claims. How do you battle the built in cynicism? Plan a 6 month brand campaign featuring extensive testing by seasoned professionals delivered as viral video and build an honest opinion based social network of reviewers and discussion. The rest of the story >



"Growing Customer Ecosystems"
See the Melia blog for more

We turned to Melia for a variety of services to support the launch of the company product line in the spring of 2010 resulting in a successful and impactful rollout of the company’s product portfolio. Thanks to Mike and the entire team at Melia.

- Dariush Rad, CEO, Founder, Asterope
We always have enjoyed working with startup companies. Working directly with the founder and team puts you at the intersection of passion for product and the challenge to gain market share all within a typically tight budget. The opportunity to craft an image and strategically choose a marketing direction that will guide the company for years to come has always been the most satisfying part of my business.

Asterope is such a company. Based in Austin Texas, the CEO/founder, Dariush Rad is a long time associate and approached us in 2009 to help launch a new company. Asterope holds a number of patents for technology that could truly transform the instrument and audio cable market segment. However this market space is notorious for selling products that are just hype with big marketing campaigns and no real gain in sound quality.

With a comparatively small budget the marketing direction was laid out to begin with the high end instrument (guitar) market. The focus was on getting buy-in and testimonials from some of the best studio musicians and engineers in the business. The look and messaging had to emphasize the passion for music – this brand was to become about transmitting 100% of the passion for the music played to the ears of your audience.

The name Asterope was coined by Dariush and is a actually a genus of butterfly, it also means lightning bolt. We designed a lyrical but sharp interpretation of the butterfly for the logo and the tagline “More balance, bandwidth and bliss” became the cornerstones for the brand. The launch included a 30 second animated piece for YouTube with a custom score that became the “soundmark” for Asterope. This came into play nicely later in the campaign when we had our all-star musicians add a track to the piece.

The core of the campaign is nationwide tour, still in progress, to hold events where musicians can demo the product in a studio situation, compare to other products and give a video testimonial if they like. Some of the top guitar and bass players in the world have endorsed the product and been featured in an ongoing ad campaign with more to come. The videos are produced in multiple formats for YouTube, Facebook, and form the core storytelling component of the e-commerce web site.

We have worked closely with the team for over 18 months on all aspects of brand building including business presentations, web site design, product packaging, collateral, exhibit design, video/animation , print and online advertising. To date the Asterope brand is gaining traction nationally through word of mouth as a premier sound technology provider and have largely quieted the cynics and competitors. Sales are building and they are quickly building relationships with music retailers in the US and Canada. If you are a musician you should check out the cables – they will truly open your ears and your mind!

Purpose Built Communities

The Eastlake neighborhood in Atlanta is a true renaissance story from one of the most dangerous places in America to a symbol of hope and positive growth. Legendary Atlanta developer Tom Cousins started the revitalization over 15 years ago and it has become a model that now, with the backing of Warren Buffett and Pat Robertson, is being taken to other communities nationwide with a new brand identity, web presence and video crafted by The Melia Group. The rest of the story >


Eastlake Foundation
Mike - Thanks again for the countless hours you invested to get Purpose Built Communities off to a stronger start! Ever since the New Orleans event, Carol and her team have been responding to inquiries from all over the country. At last count, they had 70 viable prospects in the pipeline. The work you did over the past year helped define Purpose Built Communities, not only to the public but also to the Purpose Built team.

— Mary Dugenskie
Purpose Built Communities

By Ian Wilhelm, The Chronicle of Philanthropy
NEW ORLEANS — On a chilly morning here recently, the financier Warren Buffett walked through a newly built three-bedroom townhouse, asking questions like a potential buyer.The Nebraska native, of course, was not looking for a new residence; he came to the Crescent City to champion a new network of non-profit groups dedicated to alleviating poverty.

Almost like giving a cancer patient a battery of medicines and treatments at one time, the coalition, known as Purpose Built Communities, suggests that to defeat seemingly intractable social problems, impoverished neighborhoods need a full array of charitable aid — new housing, recreational facilities, charter schools and more. Although the approach isn't new — community development corporations, for instance, have espoused a similar idea — the philosophy has attracted deep-pocket donors.

Buffett, real estate mogul Thomas Cousins and hedge fund manager Julian Robertson last year founded the coalition, which is providing advice and managerial aid to seven U.S. cities.

Vision backed by $430 million

Here in the Gentilly neighborhood, the Purpose Built approach has yielded Columbia Parc, a former public-housing complex that was torn down after Hurricane Katrina.

The Bayou District Foundation, a member of the coalition, is working with the local housing authority, a real estate developer and others to resurrect the 55-acre development off St. Bernard Avenue.

Its ambitious goal includes building 1,325 low-cost housing units, two schools, a YMCA facility, a health clinic and a supermarket. Purpose Built Communities is even trying to get approval to refurbish a nearby golf course to offer employment opportunities for residents and generate revenue for its charitable programs. Much of the $430 million project is under construction or resides on blueprints, but phase one is complete and residents began moving in last month.

As part of the inaugural meeting of Purpose Built Communities and its members, Buffett, Cousins and others inspected two new residences, admiring the granite countertops, crown molding and walk-in closets. Although Buffett attracted the news media to the event — CNBC followed his tour — Cousins is the main driver behind the efforts.

"When you get a chance to bet on the right person for the right project, you'd better put your money down," Buffett said about his friend, whom he has known for more than 10 years. "I'm just delighted to participate and let him do all the work." Buffett declined to say how much money he has pitched in. "It's whatever Tom asks for," he said.

Can success be replicated?

The Purpose Built approach, Cousins said, stems from his success—and occasional frustrations—in fighting poverty in his hometown of Atlanta.After several decades of giving to an array of charitable ventures, in 1995 Cousins decided to shift gears and focus on one notoriously crime-infested neighborhood: East Lake. "We had been supporting this school program, this drug program, this that and the other. But we could not really see results," he said. "We told the philanthropic community we're out of business except for one area of Atlanta."

Cousins established the East Lake Foundation and, with the help of charities and city agencies, sought to revitalize all aspects of the area. It seems to have worked.

According to the East Lake Foundation, violent crime has fallen 95%, only 5% of residents rely on government welfare checks, and more than 80% of fifth-graders from the neighborhood meet or exceed Georgia's math standards. Cousins is frank about the challenges. City and non-profit leaders need "the heart and stomach, because it's not easy," he said. "There are a lot of roadblocks along the way."

Buffett said some may be skeptical that East Lake's success can be reproduced, but he predicted the naysayers will be wrong. "New Orleans will prove it can be replicated," he said. And visitors from across the country will say, "We can do this in our own community." For more stories from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, go to philanthropy.com
AALU Lobbying App

The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting sends it's members to Washington DC for one day each year to lobby Senators and Representatives on issues that are critically important to the members. We were asked to develop an application that would allow members to schedule meetings with over 450 Senators and Representatives, get relevant backgrounders and stay on top of changing schedules.

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Solis Hotels and Resorts

Imagine a relaxed sophisticated atmosphere that is personal and engaging. You would feel at home in a tux ordering champaign at the bar or in jeans sipping a beer. The atmosphere is local but the service is world class. The expectations are sky high because the legendary Ritz Carlton management team lead by Horst Schultze is launching Solis and we are lucky to have been selected to craft the brand.

The rest of the story >


"Growing Customer Ecosystems"
See the Melia blog for more
Other Hotels are merely places to stay.
Solis is the experience that stays with you.

Solis is a new entry into the five-star international hotel market being crafted by the former Ritz-Carlton management team and each hotel is a unique reflection of it's local environment. From a renovated 16th century castle in Ireland to a modern world-class ski resort in the Swiss Alps to a desert resort in Scottsdale AZ, there had to be a common thread that connected the diversity in architecture and place.

We developed a series of illustrations that captured the art of Solis Hotel service with a loosely drawn and vibrantly colored style. These pieces were used in collateral, in-room materials, ads, web sites and animated in a 3 minute brand video that featured an original score and vocals. This approach was very cost efficient in the long run, offered layered storytelling, could be tailored to fit any location and was a true departure from the typical hospitality identity.

We developed the collateral systems, in room materials, signage specs, web templates and ad formats that were reflected in a standards manual for all future projects. All materials were scaled down, used eco friendly papers and inks for a minimal environmental footprint. Mike Melia and photographer Barry Murphy developed a highly detailed style balanced with soft selective focus for Solis and Mike art directed all facility photography on location (hey somebody had to do it).

The end result was a focused identity that maximized the budget and gave the brand a unique visual palette that could easily be built on for all future properties.

Melia has had an 8 year relationship with National Geographic Magazine, Traveler and The National Geographic Channel. In that time we designed 2 versions of the magazine site, provided CMS technology, executed online documentaries, games, contests and educational experiences. We also implemented a community portal that in the first year grew to over 1200 discussion threads with over 1.5 million views.

The rest of the story >


"A Future for Digital Magazines?"
See the Melia blog for more
"General Excellence Online" for "stunning photography, innovative applications of text and video, and first-class journalism combine(d) into an astonishingly good website, providing visitors with a remarkable window on the planet and its peoples." — Judge, 2006 Ellie Awards,
American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) / National Geographic Magazine."

In 2000, National Geographic, in the middle of a major redesign of its magazine for the first time in over 40 years, wanted a web site to reflect the vitality of the new direction. Our goal was to enhance the current readers' experience and to drive new subscriptions while reflecting NGM's high design standards. In the first year alone, NGM gained over 40,000 new subscriptions through the web site. Most exciting was that the majority of new subscribers were in a new, younger 25–35-year-old demographic for NGM.

The Melia Group design emphasizes NG's legendary photography and gives an enormous amount of technical and behind-the-scenes details not found in the magazine. There are also forums, maps and links for detailed information relating to each of the seven features. Melia developed a broadband Flash format including voiceover, music and animated photography that tells the story behind the article. The story is typically a documentary from the researcher's or photographer's perspective, and each year the documentaries are packaged for middle and high school education programs.

We have updated the site with major re-designs twice since the original design in 2000, added a steady stream of community features, online documentaries and educational features. The NGM site is currently being produced in-house at National Geographic.

  • 2004, 2005, and 2006
    Ellie Awards
    National Geographic Magazine
  • 2006 Webby AwardNational Geographic Magazine
  • 2007 Graphis International Design Annual inclusion
  • 40,000 new subscriptions in Year 1
  • 1.5 million views for one forum alone
  • Your Shot – 3,000–5,000 entries per month. Numbers have doubled since the addition of voting, enhanced gallery views and interactive features including puzzles.