Not only does Ryan Waller have a huge affinity for the dogs themselves, but also a particular love for T-shirts depicting the often misunderstood breed.



Sometimes, larger studios that can afford to take on cultural projects at a cost to themselves will pitch low client rates to erase smaller studios ability to compete, whilst appearing to remain culturally relevant themselves.


Read more about this in the POWER essay


The talk at the tangle was Ryans first public lecture! Thank you for trusting us 🫶

Chapter 4: Power
September 9th 2023
Words by Bethany Rigby

In another life, if Ryan Waller [co-founder of graphic design studio Other Means] wasn’t doing graphic design; he would be running a Pitbull Rescue Centre. Pitbulls are often misunderstood as uncontrollable pets and therefore often sadly make up a high percentage of the population of dog shelters.

Control was a theme that threaded through Ryan’s talk at the Tangle, where he described that exercising control is often the foundation of power, and how having a certain degree of control over your creative practice can help with forging your own direction. As a long standing member of the graphic design community, Ryan had much to share about Other Means’ approaches and strategies that have sustained their practice as a studio operating within the cultural sector, often in the face of difficult external economic environments. 

Seven Exercises in Control from Ryan Waller (Other Means) talk “You can get with this, or you can get with that” at the Helsinki Tangle:

P – Process
I – Integrity
T – Trade offs 
B – Balance 
U – Unity
L – Longevity 
L – Lazers


Discovery and Strategy > Design > Design production > Roll Out and Implementations

When embarking on a new project, Other Means follows a design process that answers these questions: Does the design fit the values of the studio? > What is the idea? > What are the limits? > How does it end?


Given their experience in the industry, Ryan and his colleagues are well versed in knowing how larger, more corporate design studios operate, and how profit is often placed as the highest priority. As a studio, Other Means is scrupulous about the sorts of projects they accept and the clients they work with. As a matter of principle, before undertaking a project they ask themselves whether that project will go on to do good in the world. In an environment where many designers are struggling to meet the demands of client affordability and rising living costs, the wider impact of Other Mean’s strongly held principles, hopefully, has the ripple effect of improving the chance that others might also be able to secure fairer commissions.

Trade Offs

The economics of labour and work was a recurring theme throughout Ryans talk, where he honestly noted that “none of us [the Other Means founders] have a background in having money”. There are certain trade-offs that become apparent when starting a creative practice. Ryan anecdotally offered that, at times, the amount of labour required to complete some projects resulted in an hourly salary that dips below living wage (a situation that may be familiar to many designers reading this) and this required an adjustment in their home life in order to live within a certain means until the work begins to pay off. After over a decade of brilliant projects and building a sterling reputation as a studio, Ryan outlined how their trajectory has transitioned from their early days of completing 50-60 projects per year at a lower pay rate per project, to now working on around 20 projects per year at a higher rate of pay. The economics of creative practices are so rarely discussed, so for our audience in Helsinki, it was enlightening to hear in frank, transparent terms how the studio makes ends meet.


Other Means projects span web design, publishing, visual identities and building signage – and are often very large in scope. To manage the workload efficiently, the studio balances the workloads across the skillsets of each of the founders–Ryan usually covers the design elements of their projects, whilst rarely taking on more public facing responsibilities, a role usually assigned to co-founder Gary Fogelson.


Through their Typography Summer School (with Fraser Muggeridge in London), Easy Lessoning (with the Zürich design community) and their extensive lecture activities over the years, Other Means has been fostering dialogues between designers, design students and the public, prioritising ideas over commerce. These activities have built a global community of like-minded graphic designers, who have moved outwards into the world with a practice that critiques design as a discipline and its role in shaping society since 2010. We hope to see more extra-commercial activities from Other Means in the future.


The fact that they are one of the few graphic design studios in New York City who solely work on cultural projects is testament to the longevity of Other Means. Aside from this, their process of graphic design as a practice of making meaning lends their work an innate longevity too. Pulling from various sources such as popular culture and user interfaces, their work often engages legacy institutions in reaching new audiences by introducing humour and friction through unexpected dynamic typography, supporting their goal of “using design to impact and shape culture.”


How to hand over control to your audience during a talk? Just add lazers.

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