UX Designer

Make it. MSP. Strategic Design Project

Make IT. MSP.

Make it. MSP is a collaborative project of makers groups and community members who love the MSP region, and is an initiative of Greater MSP (an economic development partnership in the region).

Gold Medal Flour sign from @makeitmsp Instagram


CHALLENGE: To create a concept vision, mockups and prototypes that build awareness and connection, and help address the growing tech professional shortage in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. 

SOLUTION: Design strategy modeled after the artist lofts in the Twin Cities. Make It. HOME. is a tech professional housing system that encourages mentorship and relationship building.

METHODS: Design Strategy, Storyboards, Asset Prototypes, Client Presentation

TOOLS: Adobe Illustrator, Keynote


Problem: the growing tech professional shortage

Minnesota currently has a deficit of 58,000 tech workers in the MSP area and are expecting that number to raise to 100,000 by the year 2020. (a quick glossary in case you're reading from afar: Minneapolis/St. Paul is the main metropolitan hub of Minnesota--you'll see the metro area referred to throughout this post both as "the Twin Cities" and as "MSP.")

Discovery & Methodology

Secondary Research

Design Strategy is a forward-facing innovation effort; it is the creation of a long term plan rooted in the context of the short term. What problem am I trying to solve? What do I have now, and where do I want to go with it? UX often exists in the context of digital work; making the experience of a website better, for example. But what about making a life experience better, like relocating to a new city for a job? We started with research about the client, their focus, existing data, and looking at what other initiatives in the country were doing. What are people's perceptions about that cold flyover state, Minnesota? Why do people move here and why do they leave? The Make it. MSP. website is a resource, but what more can we do?

Stone Arch Bridge, Public Domain
Make it. MSP logo.


We had a lot of ideas, from a remote-to-relocate program that would alleviate some of the pressures of relocating: you could work remotely until you visited, grew a bit more of a community, found a nice place to live, and your spouse found a job (Make it. MSP.'s research shows that "opportunities for spouse" was a huge concern for people considering relocation.) We talked about relocation assistance, risk reduction paired with community growth events, and getting people connected to other people and to a place, fostering individual identity and community belonging. We wanted to leverage the valuable communities we already have--Minnesotans who were born here as well as Minnesotans who emigrated here from other states and countries. 

Concept Visioning
Design Strategy

Two major issues surfaced:

1. Professionals with years of tech experience move to the Twin Cities, but people are faced with barriers, such as the Minnesota Cold Shoulder. Transplants say that they feel initially welcome but that welcomeness is superficial. Which doesn't encourage people to stay. 

2. Newly-trained tech talent (such as those graduating from accelerated learning programs) face a barrier of jobs that require 2-3 years' experience, and they consider relocating. 

Okay, so retention is an issue. 

Design Strategy

We envisioned a tech community-based living space much like the Artist Co-Ops that have thrived in the MSP area; Make it. HOME. would be a  housing co-op inhabited by tech professionals. Spaces would provide amenities designed to encourage professional and community growth. 

In our vision, people would be offered a job or internship in the MSP area and as a part of relocation would be able to apply to be a part of the Make it. HOME. program.

The crux of this idea is mentorship. The two main populations of people we would like to see thrive in this community both have something to gain and something to offer. 

1. Seasoned tech professionals relocating to MN who have expertise in the field, but want to build a community network.

2. New-to-role Minnesotans that are invested in the growth of the Twin Cities community but have experience to gain.

Cutting edge features of the building would support tech workers’ professional needs and lifestyles as well as facilitate community building and social interaction.

Facilities could include: 

  • Co-working space
  • Presentation and Meet-up hosting space
  • Incredible internet (a prerequisite)
  • Participants could reserve server time, VR facilities or game room
  • Building could include a coffee shop onsite, open to the public


I created several storyboards to highlight some of the proposed amenities:

Storyboard 1
Storybard 2
Storyboard 3

Funding is obviously a consideration. In addition to rent income, we see this initially being funded by investing stakeholders; these are the businesses that would directly benefit from better tech talent in MSP area. If Make it HOME. were to grow as a network of high-quality housing complexes that serve as a conduit for getting higher-earning tech talent in the state and later encouraging them to become homeowners, the state economy could improve, thus increasing the property value of the investment. Additionally, a cafe in the building could serve as a secondary source of income for the owners. 

The idea is scalable--buildings could be in the trendy North Loop of Minneapolis, the gorgeous Capitol Hill area of St. Paul, or residential city neighborhoods or surrounding suburbs for growing families. 


The question of how to raise awareness of and demand for the program is an interesting one. I created a few prototypes for marketing and advertising: 

Advertising on Stakeholders' job pages

Advertising on Stakeholders' job pages

Google Ads targeting "MSP Jobs" searches originating at IP addresses outside of the region

Google Ads targeting "MSP Jobs" searches originating at IP addresses outside of the region

Ongoing marketing: a project highlighting the space, mentor/mentee relationships, and MN transplant success stories, such as a Vimeo channel 

Ongoing marketing: a project highlighting the space, mentor/mentee relationships, and MN transplant success stories, such as a Vimeo channel 


We presented our ideas to the client, and got some great feedback.

Dan Linstroth, the Make it. MSP tech team coordinator, liked our idea--and he liked that we put all our chips on the table and went big with the initiative, focusing on the business wins as well as wins for participating individuals. He also mentioned that co-working concepts were a part of the Make it. MSP. team's current focus areas, but they had not considered the possibility of co-living spaces.

He challenged us to take it up a notch; to consider the complex outcome that may come up with housing subsidies that apply to a large range of incomes (i.e., a new-to-role with an internship stipend would not be able to afford the same rent as an experienced professional), and to think further on the ideas of funding, whether the concept was free or subsidized, and to give more details and clarity on the mentorship program. 

Here are a few ideas I have for how to represent that information: 

Funding model visualization
Mentor Mentee relationships