WITH     Melanie Ryan  


Professionally, I'm a Business Development Consultant. I specialize in working with professional services in architecture, design and the culture that orbits them. 

My passion for the built environment has led to careers as Accounts Lead at a creative agency representing award-winning architectural clients to Marketing Director for a prolific Southern California real estate developer to Business Development consulting for clients positioning themselves in Los Angeles. 

I bring together the like-minded and uncover collaborations. 
I aim to work with innovators revered in their industries, that wish to expand brand positioning and nurture opportunities in untapped markets. As an independent consultant, I enjoy teaming with creative agencies, large and small studios and urbanism oriented programming as well as a localized extension to your capabilities.


I graduated from Rollins College with my B.A Degree in Environmental Studies and especially seek out people and projects for environmental impact and material solutions; even in the city-dwelling environments I'm often in.    

I also co-founded a design studio called OPEN for humans, with my architect partner Todd Sussman, which we work on smaller scale/independent projects. Here is a link to his professional portfolio. With our studio together, we focus on more artful site specific-design, competitions, objects and spatial installations. We also designed and built our home together, located in Echo Park, nicknamed; The Jungle Gym House


Architecturally Speaking - on networking and business development 

It's 2020 and design has no shortage of talented designers, architects, and creatives. So as a Business Development Consultant for the A+D community, I often get asked: How do I stand out and grow my business? 

Like nature, businesses also have seasons. Some seasons are drier than others. As we know, a major part of doing the work starts with getting it. The best part about the work once you have it, is then getting to innovate, develop and curate within it - which leaves little room for then developing more business. 

With the new decade in full swing, hunting season has officially begun. To survive and thrive, one must not only meet new people and remember them, but also be memorable yourself. This is what I do best, business development; which is a vertical that often gets forgotten because of the more immediate needs of the creative work. The formula is in the follow up and it's leaning back to analog. Logically speaking, it's about working with who you like and trust.

If you’re like me, you might experience information fatigue: an overload of things to check, post and share. So let me help you get yourself out there, get known, better know yourself and what sets your work apart. 

1. Name drop.  But not in the typical Hollywood sense. Because what I mean is to name drop your own name, your own clients, your own business. I introduce myself by first and last name (I'll tell you why later), I'll repeat my name before I leave the conversation, and I’ll repeat what client I'm representing. Recalling past projects, mutual colleagues, and relevant headlines in the news will help you stand out amongst a crowd by not only being personable, but topical. 

2. Know your audience. Witty banter aside, before going to an event, research the attendee list and make a list of the top 5-10 people you want to know personally. For example, I typically create a list in my phone that includes: a photo, a full name and a few notes to quickly reference before I approach someone at a party. This ensures I have something specific to genuinely compliment or comment on when sparking conversation with my intended audience. Notes can be anything - from non work-related topics such as charities they are involved in, or mutual friends you might have. *Don't just stay comfortable and gripe with other architects, visualize the room, and then lap it. 

3. You are what you bring to the table. No one wants to be sold to or preached to. They don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter, and they aren’t interested in engaging with a “know-it-all;” even if you are an unassuming one. So offer value and interest. Be curious. Not only that, read the news, outside of architecture and design. Select 1 or 2 industry trends and new developments to comment on. More often, it's the personal aim that connects on that level first. Back to my introduction, saying my first and last name when introducing myself (architects love to visually associate), so I'll say my own name in a story, or a thing they can associate my last name with. If I have a pen, I'll write a note on my card. More often though, most of us aren't great with names, so it's an extra reminder. 

4. Always secure the bag. I know this seems like a lot of pressure. But it’s not, I promise. There are a few different ways to achieve this. It’s easy to have a great conversation and/or introduce a client to a prospective partner; but you need a takeaway. Leave them with something memorable to follow-up with. If this person is not a direct new client or collaborator, offer something of value - even if you do it in a way where you’re making them feel valued. For example, there are many ways to ask for a referral or a tip on events they recommend, books they’re reading, etc. There is always information we can share and receive, and most importantly, connect on. 

5. The formula is in the follow-up.  Figuring out the time you email or take action for next steps is always tricky and depends on multiple factors. A big factor to consider: what the size of the event/party/conference was. If it was a smaller gathering and you had a meaningful conversation, then sooner (even next day) is okay. Address how your approach and interest could benefit. Don't sell, but provide helpful links and everything easy to access. Let them know that you'll check back in for a meeting and keep the conversation going - but actually set reminders and notes to keep in front of them in a month to keep up the momentum. Most importantly, don’t get in your head. Assume they aren't ignoring your email, because more often than not, they might just be suffering from information fatigue, and that is something we can all relate to.


Structure Branding

and how start-up brands can benefit


“Structure Branding” refers to the identification of physical components such as materials and objects that directly reflect a brand’s culture and identity. These physical components play an essential role in any company’s experiential design. Just as a logo or graphic helps consumers identify a brand, structures or forms too can convey that product or brand - think that distinctive curvature of a coke bottle; the bulbous body of a VW bug; the sleek modern lines and earth tones that envelope the interior of any Starbucks Coffee location. You’d know these objects and locations anywhere without ever needing signage or a logo to clue you in. That is the power of structure branding. Structure branding helps individuals form an allegiance to your brand on visual contact - and it is just as powerful a tool for a business’ B2B and recruiting purposes, as it is for their consumer-facing endeavors.


Applying structure branding to newly built environments - and even existing ones - requires assessing how you want people to interact with, and interpret your brand. Structure branding goes beyond traditional interior design and architecture since the first step in this design process is actually determined by the brand itself - and what message is to be conveyed and how people are to engage with it. Assessing these types of interactions are key in any number of a brand’s spaces, including a brand’s headquarters, an event or experience such as a festival, a conference, a visual display, or a temporary art installation.


But most brand engagement happens in the digital space, not in person, right?


We still leave the house to interact with the outside world. There needs to be a formative way for brands to engage consumers beyond the social media feed, or online ad. A tangible experience is still needed to bridge the digital space with the physical one. An experience that resonates with tastemakers and consumers, alike, welcoming them into the community that is your brand. And because visuals rule in today’s world, art installations, unconventional materials, guerrilla marketing, or clever messaging all provide ‘gram-able opportunities to present a brand that people can touch, see, smell, and taste (well, sometimes). Structure branding is more than just a style for aesthetics; it reinforces brand culture and lifestyle to increase awareness, and reach target demographics. 


Structure branding’s untapped potential for hiring top talent


As brands start out, hiring top talent and offering benefits can be a challenge. Start-up life is not as glamorous as it seems, it’s a lot of sacrificing, but the number one piece of advice is always: hire the right people. Top talent is in high demand, but a cost-effective way to lure in that talent is with a workplace that makes employees proud. If you want the Google office bragging rights but don’t have the Google budget, make your mark with signage, interior design, meeting room installations, break rooms, and lobby areas that all convey your brand culture. These are opportunities to stand out to prospective clients, and cultivate an air of confidence for investors.

Art imitating now Instagramming life

Artists, over the influence 


Love it or love to hate it, Art Basel Miami dominated our instagram feeds like never before this past week. As a Florida native, I’ve attended the shows before camera phones and social media were in everyone’s pockets at its inception 14 years ago. I love Miami, and the entire city was ‘gramable during Art Basel, (however you know you bumped up the brightness of that sky because the weather was awful). It was interesting to see the obvious artworks that were there for selfies and sharing - like moths to a flame. Essentially, the bait was artworks utilizing neon, reflective surfaces, or word-art (bonus points for profanity); it was heavily photographed and everywhere online. I couldn’t help but think this was deliberate. After all, it’s no secret that collectors are watching closely and branding partnerships through images they spot by the influencers they follow. It’s a clear discovery tool, and collaborations are popping up from these in real life images and shared buzz. Are marketers and content strategists influencing the artists to get their names and galleries to opt for these mediums? Or are the artists now dictating some sure fire ways to get featured by bloggers and social influencers for high paying collectors? Regardless of actual sales coming out of it, the marketing can’t be denied to leverage other opportunities and provide transparency to demographic trends.


There are a lot of layers and trends that fall into Art Basel and the satellite fairs. It was well documented online that there was a strong female artist focus, something we hope will continue and no longer have to be noted. As installation and immersive art are solidifying their places in the mainstream, the contemporary artists are continuing to propel their work into the digital sharing space with platforms like Artsy.


Full immersive rooms and structural applications are providing a great platform for fine art, architecture and designers to collide; and the non-design media was all over it. Primarily at Design Miami/, where it was nearly impossible to differentiate the fine art from the architecture. These artful spaces were constantly captured by visitors as it seems physical and digital art will continue to feed off each other.


Is it a corner store neon OPEN sign, or fine art? Maybe it’s both. We like to keep ‘em guessing as well.

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