Melissa Rivera-Torres is a designer and inventor who was born and raised in Mexico and now lives in California. Melissa attended college in the United States and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design before returning home to Mexico City where she found work as a designer for the National Children’s Museum known as "Papalote Museo del Niño" where she was instrumental in creating various exhibitions.

Melissa also designed furniture for children that was placed in preschool classrooms and other elementary schools before returning to the Rhode Island School of Design to earn a Masters degree in Art And Design Teaching Education.

Melissa has traveled to many states and places. While living in Hawaii, she worked at The Honolulu Contemporary Art Museum, Hawaii Pacific University, and The Honolulu Academy of Arts as well as a non-profit outreach program called Art to Go. In 2009, she decided to start her own company, Unleash Studio. Via this company, she enjoys making unique and functional items that make people smile. She currently lives in California after living ten years in Hawaii where she continues designing and working in Unleash Studio.

Design and television

Melissa's creations have earned her spots on many television shows. She competed in "The White Room Challenge" on HGTV where she was tasked with creating interior designs in a bare room, and she was also a contestant on "Ellen's Design Challenge" in the second season where she created chairs, beds, and other furniture items.

Yet she is best known for her recent appearance on the toy design show by ABC called "The Toy Box."

Lightbox Terrier is an item that melds furniture and toy. As the name suggests, it is shaped like a terrier dog, lights up, and comes with markers and accessories in its mouth, so children draw on it and then erase with ease. There is also a cool cubby where paper can be stored which kids can use to trace.

As they explore the "Lightbox Terrier" they will find many fun things for them to play and interact with “Terry” as the dog is called. Interestingly, the prototype seen in the show was created especially for “The Toy Box” program.

"The casting crew asked me to look through my portfolio for something that would work," Melissa stated in a recent exclusive phone Interview.

"I built it over a weekend-and-a-half with the huge help of a friend at work and actually only have the one prototype right now. I was shocked but delighted to make the finals."

Even though Melissa did not win the contest's grand prize of a contract with Mattel, she made some wonderful contacts via the show and hoped to get Lightbox Terrier--and some of her other designs, including a doghouse in the shape of a lifeguard stand--on the market shortly. The show also opened her eyes to the potentials in the toy industry.

"I went on the show to have a good time and try something new," she declared. "It was a bonus to make it to the last round. I got some great feedback, but I think the design needs to be polished and perfected a little more.

I've gotten a lot of follow-up emails from people who are interesting in buying the Lightbox Terrier, so I certainly want to mass-produce it at some point, but I'm willing to wait for things to fall into place. Right now, I'm just going with the flow."

Projects and possibilities

Melissa currently works at an exhibit design firm in California, and she also has experience in interior design as well as making a custom item.

"I love design because it impacts everything in life and it's absolutely everywhere," Melissa declared. "Our houses, cars, clothes, beds...all of those things were designed by someone. If you are surrounded by designs you like they make you happy; even the color of a room can lift your mood.

The best part of being a designer is having the ability to create items that bring joy, comfort, happiness, and other positive feelings."

Melissa likes to design products across numerous styles, but making functional, clever, and unique things for kids is an especially fun foray for her. As she stated: "If I design something that inspires someone, that is a great feeling, and it is fascinating how interconnected art and design and life are."

Aside from designing and teaching, Melissa had a passion for the outdoors, and she is an avid skateboarder, BMX biker, and music lover. Shortly, she plans to get her products on the market and bring her designs to life so that they are available to consumers on a large and immediate scale.

"I'd also like to have a family one day," she added. "I try to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and make good things happen."'