IIDA Member Spotlight: Angela Ryan

Angela Ryan, IIDA SoCal Past President, and Director of Interior Architecture & Design at Ware Malcomb, is a vital part of the Interior Design community here in Southern California. She reinvented San Diego’s DesignConnect six years ago, created a “best-of” Flipbook, co-chaired  Calibre Design Awards, served as the SD City Center Director, and led our chapter as President of IIDA Southern California.  She is a respected IIDA leader whom we reach out to for advice, expertise and thought leadership.


With that kind of resume, one would think design had always been Angela’s focus. 

Though she was often found rearranging neighbors’ homes in St. Louis, Missouri as a young child, the idea of an Interior Design career wasn’t on the table until only weeks before starting college. 

The granddaughter of a talented oil painter, art was integrated into Angela’s life at a young age. However, the idea of taking her talent professionally wasn’t deemed a viable prospect.  Instead, Journalism became her focus.  As a member of yearbook and newspaper committees, it was a natural progression.  And yet, there was always a nagging feeling that she would be underutilizing her creative strengths in journalism.  

Prior to starting university, Angela had a conversation with a family friend, expressing her doubts. It was this friend who suggested she change her focus toward Interior Design.  Angela told her parents, and they discouraged the change.  

“My parents only knew of Interior Design from shows on TLC & HGTV,” Angela remembers.

It wasn’t until winning the “Top Portfolio” recognition for acceptance into the program, they changed their minds. Angela still uses her journalism skills today, interviewing her clients, gathering information, and storytelling, as part of the design process. 

Angela’s design process starts with the client’s business goals and vision for their space, identifying challenges, and developing creative solutions that not only improve the look and feel of the space, but also the workflow and collaboration of the users.   “I like to advocate for my clients,” explains Angela. “My strengths are organizing, executing and creating efficiencies.”  Her design philosophy includes actively listening to her clients and providing solutions that are aligned with their expressed goals, brand, and culture.  It’s not about imposing her wishes on them, but rather determining what her clients require to ensure their project is successful; and then delivering and improving upon it.  

Angela graduated with a degree in Environmental Design in 2006, from the University of Missouri-Columbia (MIZZOU). As many of her professors were architects, she was drawn to Commercial Design within an Architecture and Design firm.  Landing a job at JMA and then NTD Architecture, she gained experience initially designing casinos and hospitality spaces

After 10 years at Cuningham Group Architecture, Angela started to search for a place where she could have more mentorship in business development and design leadership. After meeting with Tiffany English, Principal at Ware Malcomb, Angela realized that she would find the mentorship and sponsorship to meet her professional goals on her team.  Tiffany’s philosophy and reputation were exactly why Angela made the move to Ware Malcomb. Hired initially as a Senior Project Manager with the intention to grow into Studio Head, and then into a Director role, Angela built relationships with the design team and met all performance expectations.  She focused on elevating overall design and shifting the market focus from industrial buildings to creative office, healthcare, restaurant and retail design.  While prioritizing relationships and repositioning the firm within San Diego has helped Angela achieve success at Ware Malcomb, it is her belief in team advocacy and sponsorship that remains most important to her.

When she isn’t designing with her team, Angela stays connected to her creative side through painting. She started drawing and painting again just a couple of years ago when she found that moving into a leadership role left her feeling a little disconnected from the more tangible, creative side of the design process.  After sketching daily on a trip to Italy, she started completing watercolor paintings for clients as housewarming gifts and spearheading doodle challenges with her design team at Ware Malcomb.  Most recently, Angela painted many of the spectacular time lapsed watercolors of award-winning projects highlighted during the 2021 Calibre Award ceremony.

Check out her amazing illustrations and paintings @angelalafica on Instagram.

Angela has been a part of the IIDA Southern California leadership team for years.  As her tenure on the IIDA SoCal Executive Board comes to a close, she will continue to promote our chapter and our industry.  And it is with that, we all say THANK YOU ANGELA for everything you have done, the attention and time you have generously given, and in advance, for everything you will continue to do.

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