Melbourne Calling — Ryan Romanes

2 years ago by


Design Assembly supports Aotearoa’s Designers at home and abroad. We love to celebrate our home grown talent doing well overseas and this series gives us the opportunity not only to profile these designers but also to learn more about the cities they now call home. Today we spoke to Ryan Romanes

Ryan’s portrait was shot by Veeral Patel

Where is your hometown in NZ? 

Rotorua New Zealand.

Can you tell us a little about the highlights of your career history so far?

I was fortunate to have a couple of great experiences abroad early on in my career, although they were relatively short-lived both have made a big impact on the path I’ve taken. The first being a three month internship for Sagmeister & Walsh in New York, at this time the studio was consisted of four people and the interns were heavily involved from concept to creation. I was lucky to assist on several set designs for Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Film, one involved launching Stefan into the air with 3000 heliums balloons in upstate new york.

Campaign Image for Dubai Creative Festival –ing. Art Direction by Ryan Romanes, Photo by Jiani Lu.

A couple of years later I spent three months in Dubai working with creative conference -ing to develop the identity and create campaign imagery for their conference and a series of small events. I met some great people there, experienced a completely different culture and had full creative control to art direction some creative campaigns.

What brought you to live in Melbourne? And how did you find or make the opportunity to work there? 
Prior to moving to Melbourne I had just completed my internship in New York, the initial plan was to return for a year but after three months I felt pretty drained and had no desperate desire to return. After some time off I decided to continue my education by enrolling in a masters degree at RMIT. The intention was that Melbourne would be a stepping stone to somewhere further abroad upon completing my studies. However, while I was studying I started taking on freelance projects to generate an income. As I met more people in Melbourne and began sharing my work online, as a result the freelance work started growing. Once the jobs evolved into larger projects I found a shared space to work from and gradually transitioned my studies to part-time, most of the subjects were either completed as night classes or online which gave me more flexibility with work. During quiet patches, I reached out to design studios for freelance positions and did the occasional sub-contract jobs with other independent designers in Melbourne.

Left: Identity for Melbourne Activewear label, Jasmine Alexa. Photo by Tommi Kavalente
Right: Identity and packaging for Australian Skincare brand, Mieux Derma. Photo supplied by Anthropologie

How did you connect with the creative community once you arrived?
During the first six months I was a full time student so I met a lot of other students and teachers, one of whom runs a design practice – Public Journal – and regularly employed me as a freelancer to help with her projects. I’ve also freelanced for a few design studios (A Friend of Mine, Maud, Paper Stone Scissors) and continued to sublet space within co-working offices. Additionally, I’ve connected with mutual friends working in design fields and reached out to people via Instagram.

Photo supplied by The Stella Collective

Is there a local designer in Melbourne you admire?
It’s hard not to be inspired by interior design in Melbourne! For the past 12 months, I have been sharing an office with The Stella Collective, who are responsible for creating some of Melbourne most loved spaces. I admire their attention to intricate detail and the real sense of soul and personality that carries through every project they lay their hands on. They have also designed our studio space that inspires me every time I come into the office

What are you working on right now?
Currently, I have two large projects, one way-finding project for The Stella Collective who are redesigning a Sydney office tower lobby. The other project is for a natural skincare brand based in Los Angelas. Amongst these projects I have also be refining my own brand, documenting work and launching a new website with help by my old studio pals, PDA who have coded the site, and photographer friend Veeral who has documented some of my recent work.

How does your work differ now you live in Australia than if you were based in NZ?
I can’t imagine it being hugely different as many of my clients are overseas. However, one noticeable difference would be concerning the amount of hospitality work we do here. It is a big industry in Melbourne and people have money to spend on design! A couple of our clients run multiple outlets, so we are working with them every month to produce fast-turnaround design work.

Campaign Image for Dubai Creative Festival –ing. Art Direction by Ryan Romanes, Photo by Jiani Lu.

What benefits does the energy or experience of each place bring to your design practice?
It is clear that people and place have had a massive impact on my creative output. Probably because as designers we are providing a service tailored to people and their personalities. The thing I enjoy most about our work is learning about our clients business and how they think. Melbourne has a creative energy that doesn’t exist in every city, generally speaking, there is an awareness and value for design. You can see this shine through in the city’s visual landscape, whether it be the architecture and interiors, street posters or peoples sense of fashion. Looking back only portfolio of work I can see undertones that have influenced my work then and now.

Identity for Saudi Arabian Homewares Store, Pieces. Photography by Veeral Patel

What advice do you have for New Zealand designers looking to move overseas?

It’s difficult to give advice in this area because everyone responds to change differently. The advice I’d give myself would be to look at where everyone is going and don’t go there. I love living in Melbourne long term, but when you get to the centre of cities like Melbourne, New York, London etc. you’ll probably find yourself falling into a group of people who speak the same language, eat the same found and listen to the same music as you. When I went to Dubai I didn’t know what to expect, but I met so many people from culturally diverse backgrounds that I feel has had a much greater influence personal and professional life. In September my partner and I have decided to base ourselves in Barcelona for three months, It took us a while to decide on a city, however, we were adamant from the beginning that it would be somewhere culturally very different and no-english speaking. These are the experiences you remember.

What do you love most about Melbourne?
There is so much to love! I love that each suburb has it’s own identity and unique flavour, I love the diversity in culture, I love that most people here have a genuine appreciation for design and creativity, I love how easy it is to live here.

Hotel Esplanade, St Kilda

What is the must-do experience you’d recommend to anyone visiting Melbourne for a long weekend?

  • Eat, Drink and Marvel at the Espy Hotel
  • Spend a day at NGV (generic but hard to beat)
  • Pack a boozy picnic, hire a self-drive boat and float up the Yarra
  • Go to a good Wine bar, ask the staff for recommendations for food and wine and trust them (even if you don’t like the sound of it). Can recommend a few: Embla & Lesa, Neptune,
  • Cardigan Place Cellars, Congress, Saxe, Marion, Cuttler & Co, Carlton Wine Room, Gallagh (bar + wine shop)
  • Visit a rooftop bar: Naked for satan, goldie locks, rooftop bar, bomba, peaches, the provincial hotel
  • Eat, drink and shop in Fitzroy. Can’t go wrong anywhere along Smith, Gertrude and Brunswick Street.
  • venture out to the Heide Museum
  • if you have time visit head out of the city to Mornington peninsular, daylesford or great ocean road.

The Heide Museum

Where can we find the best sweet fix in Melbourne? 
Monsieur Truffe and East Elevation (a cafe & chocolate factory). My first apartment was opposite here in Brunswick East. Famous for their 70% single origin hot chocolates.

East elevation and monsieur truffe

Do you have a favourite shop?

  • Metropolis books in curtin house (also home of rooftop bar, cookie and mesa verde)
  • NGV gift shop
  • Modern Times
  • Lido Cinema (open air roof top cinema and bar in summer)
  • Lygon St Nursery
  • CIBI Japanese food store and shop
  • Mankoushe
  • Armadale village


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