Ryan Slattery is the owner of Slattery Design Studios, a Houston-based design firm.
In the Spotlight: Slattery Design Studios (SDS)
Describe your business (purpose, focus, etc.):
Slattery Design Studio (SDS) is a full-service design firm. We help folks communicate visually. It’s really not much more complicated than that. SDS designs advertising, marketing and political campaign collateral based upon our clients’ needs. We listen to clients; learn their industry; determine where they fit; ask a lot of questions; and create compelling work. At SDS, we are focused on making a marked impact on how people interact with information.
Making an impression is one thing. Making that impression last - that’s kinda our thing.
Why is it important for you as a business to treat all of your customers with fairness and not discriminate against LGBTQ Houstonians?
On the surface, this should be a simple question for anyone to answer: Respect everyone.
Unfortunately, things are never as simple as they may seem. My understanding of “respect” and “fairness” has always come from a place of privilege. I’ve never been marginalized or thought lesser than anyone else, in any capacity, simply by virtue of being born a straight, white, man. I’ve never experienced true discrimination. I’ve only witnessed it through the experiences of my friends and family.
So, for me, it will never be solely an issue of basic decency. To discriminate against the LGBTQ community makes as much sense as ostracizing someone because they happen to like the color blue. It’s as much about fairness and respect as it is about being successful. As a business, the minute you begin to limit your resources, you begin to fail. I know who I am as much as I know who I am not. It’s working within this understanding that I find opportunities to grow - as a person and as a business. Being inclusive means that I get to learn about experiences I’ll never fully understand, hear stories I’ll never be a main character in, and take away lessons I’d never have the benefit of if I were to pick and choose who I respect. As a person, I like to think this has made me a better, more complete human being. As a business, I am certain it has helped me create a better, more complete product.
What is your favorite thing about living/working in Houston?
The city’s commitment to craft.
I genuinely can’t think of a better place to be a “creative” than Houston. You can find inspiration anywhere here: Houston’s Art Car Parade rolling through downtown or just admiring the downtown skyline itself. You can relax on a patio with a beer concocted at one of so many exceptional breweries. You can go get your culture on down in the Museum District, or take in a different kind of culture down at the Orange Show. It doesn’t matter where you go to find inspiration here because, at a minimum, you’ll find a group of people who are entirely dedicated to their craft and have a swagger that is completely infectious. I can’t help but be impressed with this city and its drive every time I step beyond my front door.
As a business owner, what has been your proudest moment?
I have this white board that hangs in my office. It has my open projects listed out categorically: political, corporate, non-profit, pro-bono, etc. Each project is listed with benchmark dates, progress, lead contacts and so on. I like having everything in one place, visually.
Also, I like scratching things off lists.
One day last year I looked up at my board and it hit me, “I work for and with pretty terrific people and organizations!”
It’s not enough for me to know that I do good work. It’s that I collaborate with exceptional people who are committed to making this world (or at least their corner of it) better. I was proud (if also a bit terrified) when I started SDS. I am most proud looking up at my board and knowing that the work SDS does is part of the larger effort of progress, in all its forms.
How can businesses give back to the city that they call home?
Re-examine what you consider “value.”
Everything a business does has “value.” – it doesn’t always have to be monetary. Every so often, I’ll work on a project for a non-profit or other social progress organization at cost. While I’ll make very little in terms of money, I get to work with boss organizations that are busting their asses to do good things. I’d like to do more of it!
This is not a unique model by any means. It’s simply re-examining the ideas of value and need around me. There are so many valuable organizations in this town that are dedicated to moving Houston forward - organizations looking to eradicate homelessness, protect our four-legged friends, promote local artists, protect the disenfranchised, advocate for mental health care, and so on. They shouldn’t be dismissed simply because their books are a bit leaner than others. If anything, they should be at the top of the damn list!
SDS is a for-profit business. Most of my days are committed to generating revenue, expanding and diversifying clientele and creating a worthy product. That doesn’t mean there isn't room for me to do work that is simply committed to the “value” of Houston: Helping those who promote the best of what Houston does and stands for - moving forward.
Does your small business take a stand for equality? Would you like to shine a spotlight on the work you're doing and your commitment to treating all Houstonians fairly? Shoot us an email and be our next small business spotlight subject.