Melanie Ryan + Todd Sussman
Architect + Artist Collaborative
We design eye-catching art installations and architectural interventions for your public and private space. We also love designing spaces and structures for start-ups and creative entrepreneurs. OPEN for humans, a phrase that started out as what we thought, an odd way of saying a building is now fit for the public and human interaction, ended up being our studio's name. People, welcome!
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
The first step to starting out on our own was a point of contention and frustration, and we think many entrepreneurs and creative freelancers will agree. Todd is a an Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+ C and holds a Master's of Architecture from the University of Florida, and Melanie graduated from Rollins College with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies with a focus on Environmental design and landed in gallery and creative marketing positions. Collectively, over 15 years designing award winning hotels, retail centers and representing other artists and developers, the burnt out feeling was strong, and there was a creative void in our lives. We started moonlighting, and working on submissions for competitions and collaborations on the side from our day jobs. We moved to LA and picked the arts district as it reminded us of Wynwood in Miami back in our home state of Florida. Here we are, about a year in, a little older a little wiser, and wearing a lot more black.
FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?
As far as personalities go, architects have a stereotype for having an ego and being idealistic, where as artists are typically known for being awkward, not able to market themselves and flakey. Todd is humble and offers solutions with patience and respect, (although he could use an extra 1% of Kanye some days). Melanie is a visual person with a marketer's mind and could probably tone down her Kanye somedays (we balance each other out, if you haven't put it together we're also a couple in real life as well, but that's a whole other article).
For our interior work, many design studios out there claim to be interior designers when in fact they are not trained to do any work beyond surface decorating. This leads to all design, construction, and structural details being delegated to a third party thus jeopardizing the overall integrity of the design.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I'm superstitious about jinxing projects and talking about them until the ink dries! Kidding, (sort of). We're currently working on an art installation for a restaurant group in Miami that is inspired by art deco architecture and explores color projection. This is a new concept restaurant that has yet to be unveiled, so we can't say much, except in true Miami fashion, it's bold and unlike LA, dinner starts at 11pm.
We're also working on design concepts for two other projects that focus on sustainability (finally putting that Environmental Studies degree to work!). Those calls for proposals are rare, and highly competitive. We are always seeking smaller scale pavilions, retail brands and hospitality projects, and guerrilla pop-up installations, never not hustling.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
Modern, clever and experiential. A few of our design icons and inspirations are Richard Meier, Sebastian Errazuriz, Jessica Walsh, Partners & Spade, Snøhetta, Barbara Bestor, and so many more major talents especially here in LA.
Below are a few links of major inspiration for us:
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
Design and project management. We would rather control quality and creative direction and focus on refining design concepts.
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
Finding the right strategic partnership. Not having the right person that is brokering deals, while keeping our best interests in mind as well as identifying new leads for request for proposals and collaborative opportunities with other creatives. Any suggestions?
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HOUR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
See above, instead I'll give you a project cut from the total budget. Plus, you get good karma.
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
ALWAYS get it in writing. You won't need to learn this lesson again.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
The best platforms and apps for efficiency and tracking everything; from budgets to leads. A tech person to set up and suggest ways to be more streamlined in our operations and SEO. Todd is the more tech savvy and numbers oriented one, but it's not the best use of his time.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Retail + Hospitality design first and foremost, pop-up structures like pavilions and tea houses (inside a current brick and mortar or mobile versions too), structural art installations (like a mural, but with tangibility).
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT?
Here are some examples of how we can collaborate for your designs that need to pass a gravity test:
Creative Agency: translating your digital mark and branding into a material and/or space. Environmental graphics and way-finding as well.
Cannabis client: We would love to work with a modern cannabis client for high design, for a dispensary, or spa or HQ (and stock it with Ben Medansky's pipes). Todd was an in-house designer for a little coffee shop that made its way up in the world from Seattle, and we'd like to apply some of those key elements to exploring this realm.
Other artists: We can provide renderings and schematics for a pitch and offer logistical solutions. Or even get involved with the design. Public art and architectural urban interventions are our personal interests.
Event producers: backdrops, check-in areas, and interactive installations.
Marketers: Brand headquarters and guerrilla marketing campaigns. Take it to the streets!
Winemakers: Tasting room build out and a small batch label design.
WHAT IS YOUR RATE?
Since we are seeking start-ups and other creatives to design with, budgets are generally tight so you have to get extra creative in materials and ideas. Generally, it's either an architectural design hourly rate, or a design production hourly rate, not including materials and implementation. An example package we offer is if you need 3D Renderings, Exterior elevations /facade fenestration, and space planning (1,500sq ft and under) pricing is from $1,200.
We always offer a complementary consultation with a production timeline. Communication is key, and we're willing to work with the right client that see's the value in what we do, a mutual respect, as we're just getting started in LA as well. So if you're looking for that underground design group that hasn't designed seven other locations for your competition, we're your jam.
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
Hit us with a question anytime, we approach each project one at a time, and love collaborations for fashion, art, travel and other makers. A design brief is always nice to keep in mind: 1. Into 2. What feelings do you want to evoke? 3. What aesthetic are you looking for? 4. Likes/Dislikes? 5. Competitors? 6. Needs? 8. Budget? 9. Timeline?
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Traveling and experiencing other art.
This member profile was originally published in May 2016.