Recognized for boldly envisioning the future and then designing for it, effortlessly leading his agency through decades of strategic change.
As the chairman and CEO of R/GA, Bob Greenberg has traversed four decades of tremendous flux in the design and communications industries with uncanny prescience. From modest beginnings, R/GA—formerly R/Greenberg Associates—first made its name in movie production and effects in the 1980s, then evolved into an interactive ad agency in the mid-1990s before becoming the integrated digital-products and services company it is today.
With Nike, Samsung, L’Oréal Paris, Coca-Cola and other Fortune 500 titans on R/GA’s current client list, Greenberg now presides over 1,400 employees worldwide, across thirteen offices in eight countries. While many larger American corporations and smaller studios reached for their seat belts (and sick bags) during their early forays into digital media, marketing and branding, the ride for this tireless, enthusiastic innovator has been first class, due to his leadership of the agency.
As a child, Greenberg struggled in school. He believes that his dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until he was 35, gave him enhanced imagination and visualization abilities. Working as a producer and cameraman at the time he founded R/GA with his brother, Richard, in New York City in 1977, and an avid motorcyclist today, Greenberg’s knack for anticipating change at speed has served him and his clients’ global audiences and consumers well: This dynamism characterizes both his creative work and the structure of his business. Since R/GA’s inception, an eye for motion, and for the potential of networks, have informed Greenberg’s purpose.
In its first incarnation, R/GA developed cutting-edge film titles and effects for movies—everything from Alien to Zelig to Superman. To date, R/GA has also crafted more than 4,000 television commercials. Responding to the web’s emergence in the early ’90s, Greenberg oversaw R/GA’s next stage of evolution, turning it into an interactive agency and shifting the design focus away from Hollywood and television networks and toward connected technologies.
Having embraced networked media in its infancy, he took it upon himself to make sure it would grow up to be better looking and more dependable, if no less disruptive. And flourish, it did: Most recently, on the success of Nike+ and the Nike+ FuelBand, Greenberg has written the script on functionally integrated digital business, and has gone on to add a consulting arm and an accelerator to the R/GA empire, to cultivate future product innovation and start-ups.
Off-line, Greenberg remains just as energetic and no less connected: On the board of five design and technology schools and passionate about fostering the talents of his staff, his legacy will be far-reaching, wide-ranging and long-lasting, should he ever get around to retiring. When I asked him about his personal creative outlets (“Do you ever get time to draw?”), Greenberg responded, “I ride my Ducatis, and I’m building a glass house in upstate New York, inspired by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, to be shown at the next TED conference.”
Greenberg’s contribution to the profession is the fusing of interdisciplinary design, business, strategy and technology. He is dedicated to design fundamentals, the creative principles from concept to craft, experimentation with new tools and collaborating to attend to complexity. R/GA delivers over and over to audiences who don’t necessarily live and breathe design but appreciate it when it’s done just right.
Greenberg has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to maintaining creative integrity, adhering to a core, design-focused mission and people-centered values. His AIGA Medal will no doubt take pride of place among the Academy Awards, Cannes Lions and countless advertising industry trophies that adorn the lobby of R/GA’s New York headquarters.
Bob Greenberg will be presented with the AIGA Medal at The AIGA Centennial Gala on April 25, 2014, in New York City,