Melis Sönmez

Meet Melis Sönmez 

Melis is a Turkish-born design researcher with a background in product design and brand communication. She has spent the past three years collaborating with design and strategy teams tackling complex challenges and contributing insights and strategic thinking to projects in high-visibility projects.

She is also the founder of Bright Side, a community where immigrants can share their inspiring stories to empower each other and show the world their positive impact on society. 




If we came over for dinner what would you prepare for us?

Ohh I love hosting people! If you guys came over for dinner, I’d prepare a typical Turkish breakfast. It’s more than just a meal -- it’s a traditional experience where family and friends sit down together.

Every region in Turkey has its own variation, but the simplest Turkish breakfast consists of fresh cheeses, scrambled eggs, salami, tomato & cucumber, black and green olives, fruit preserves, honey, butter, Simit (a sesame-covered bagel), and obviously plenty of brewed black tea.. Mmmm.

Once we’re all finished, we would enjoy a cup of well-made Turkish coffee :)


What's the most outrageous thing you have ever done (that you can share)? 

I guess the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done was moving to the US without knowing anyone.

I get bored very quickly -- that’s why embarking on something unknown is always fun rather than being scary to me -- but my first few months in the US were extremely difficult. I was ready to quit and go back somewhere in Europe. The cultural differences, and more importantly not be able to visit my friends and family whenever I wanted, had a bigger impact than I initially anticipated.

However, once I went through my first Polar Vortex as a person who spent 25 years in Mediterranean countries, I realized that I can now do pretty much anything:)

But all jokes aside, I always love the process of discovery and once I started becoming acquainted with new things and all these amazing people, I started enjoying the city better. And my boyfriend Ben absolutely made this transition way easier for me. He is an amazing listener and knew exactly what I was going through. I feel so lucky to have his continuous support and encouragement.


What do you suck at?

I suck at many things, but I guess asking for help and staying calm are the two things I struggle with the most. I believe having lived away from home for almost a decade subconsciously forced me to learn how to “survive” by myself. For a long time I thought asking for help would be a sign of a failure or that I’d seem incompetent. However, living in Chicago, a city that is highly collaborative and friendly, showed me how wrong I was and helped me let my guard down quite a bit.  

I also am terrible at staying calm. I get very excited over little things quickly, which can be exhausting sometimes, not only for me but people around me as well. There have even been quite a few moments where I ruin my own surprises…🤦🏻‍♀️


What is your favorite place to travel to?

Istanbul, hands down! But more specifically the Bosphorus. I can’t get enough of watching those old-fashioned ferries that shuttle back and forth between Asia and Europe.


Who do you admire?

My mom. She always knows how to see the best parts of life and doesn’t really choose to look at anything negative. 


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Photo credit: Jamie & Eric Photography