Sumner Lee

Maker / FuseIntegration.com

It only makes sense that it would take a unique individual to call the mural covered walls of Warehouse1425 home – for their business at least. Yes, we’re talking about the same warehouse that artists took over for the official launch party of our neighborhood development, Makers Quarter in 2013. Who would be brilliant enough to see the warehouse not as a messy storage facility, but as an exciting place of possibility? Sumner Lee, president of Fuse Integration, is that unique individual.

“I loved the space when I walked into it. Even though there were heaps of wood and all this craziness, I saw that with all these murals and all this awesome artwork and this big open space, that there was just way too much potential for having a really cool space,” Sumner reflects. “One that would motivate everybody, get us to work together, create those chance collisions between people that help to spur innovation, spur creativity, and be able to get that whole momentum behind what we’re doing.”

Although one might guess the unique environment was a creative firm or advertising agency based on looks alone, with the reclaimed wood build outs, murals, and sky high white board, Fuse Integration is actually an innovative defense consultancy focused on user-driven smart systems integration. A unique fusion of ideas, much like Sumner himself, Fuse Integration focuses intensely on warfighter design and engineering but with a user focused design process. “It’s a very atypical firm for defense contracting, and it’s a very exciting and fun place to work because we focus more on creativity and on bringing in the user to be able to drive what we are doing so we’re not just doing engineering for the sake of engineering we’re not just building things for engineers, we are building things for the user. My background really drives to art and design as well so even though I was at the Naval Academy which is engineering based, and the pilot in the Navy, which is very activity focused, as opposed to anything design related, I always maintained a lot of design activities in my personal life and always thought there was a great deal of value in good design and artistry.”

Sumner started out flying helicopters in the Navy and transitioned to work for SPAWAR, the Navy’s development command for technology.  “I built a branch within SPAWAR, that was focused on airborne networking so it was taking internet connectivity technology to naval aircraft so that you could utilize all the benefits of network connections - modern network connections in fighting wars and saving the good guys.” Sumner earned an MBA from USC while working as a government employee with SPAWAR before deciding to move out into the private sector. He worked for an advertising firm in LA called RKS where he lead business development. “While there, after about a year, I was actually in Chicago pitching Culligan water on a project and they asked me why RKS wanted to do this project and there was a great answer that I had of course, but in the back of my mind, I said why the heck does Sumner Lee want to design a water cooler?... and i realized that i really got a lot more satisfaction and enjoyment and self worth from working with the war fighter and working for the guys who are having to drive ships in the middle of the Persian Gulf, fly planes over Iraq and Afghanistan, and live out of fighting holes in the middle of the desert, and helping those guys to have a better life to be able to do their job more efficiently and effectively really gave me a lot more sense of worth in my life. And so I came back and started FUSE in 2010.”

Photos and article by Carly Ealey

Art independently curated by Chris Konecki. For more information on art in Makers Quarter™ contact: art@makersquarter.com