R/GA’s Bob Greenberg Curates an Exquisite Exhibition

The just-opened show at New York’s Cooper Hewitt explores the communications honcho’s obsession with era-defining product design.

The just-opened show at New York’s Cooper Hewitt explores the communications honcho’s obsession with era-defining product design.

Walking into the pristine, Toshiko Mori–designed “Bob Greenberg: Selects” exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt (on view through Sept. 9) one is—pow!—confronted with a bright red 2017 Ducati Panigale Superleggera motorcycle. It’s a brash introduction to what is an otherwise tastefully organized show, which was guest-curated by Bob Greenberg, the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of the global juggernaut R/GA. Split into four areas, “Dieter Rams,” “Connected Devices,” Disruptive Innovations,” and “Measurement and Calculation”—five if you include the Ducati—the presentation is culled mostly from the museum’s permanent collection of 210,000 objects, and takes viewers through some of the most groundbreaking products of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Dieter Rams, Greenberg has found a kindred design spirit, and in this show he features 11 of the German designer’s products, from his timeless 606 shelving system for Vitsoe (1960) to his stackable hair dryers for Braun (1970). (Inspired by Rams’s “Ten Principles For Good Design,” Greenberg created his own set of dictums for R/GA, and has displayed them as well as Rams’s on walls in the exhibition; Greenberg’s include “Simpler is better,” “Let creativity drive the business,” and “Never lose your commitment to craft.”)

Running through the exhibition is Greenberg’s fascination—and engagement—with the idea of “connected space.” An R/GA-developed app for the show allows visitors to immerse themselves in the objects via a guided tour from both Greenberg and Mori, as well as luminaries such as industrial designer Thomas Meyerhoffer, Cooper Hewitt curator Ellen Lupton, and Pentagram’s Michael Bierut. Especially standout is Mori’s design, which places all of the objects under a lighting installation by Japanese firm Kaneka OLED (it’s the first time such lighting has been integrated into a U.S. museum show). As with those who designed the products on display, it’s clear that with this exhibition Greenberg paid close attention to every last detail. Here, a few of the highlights.

Ducate Panigale Superleggera motorcycle (2017).

Braun HLD 4 No. 4416 hair dryers (1970), designed by Dieter Rams.

Bruan HL1 desk fan (1961), designed by Dieter Rams.

Braun D6 Combiscope slide viewer and projector (1963), designed by Dieter Rams.

Braun AB 21/S alarm clock (1978), designed by Dieter Rams.

Edison Voicewriter dictaphone (1953), designed by Carl Otto.

IBM Correcting Selectric II Model 895 typewriter and typing elements (1973), designed by Eliot Noyes.

Sony TPS-L2 Walkman portable cassette player and headphones (1979), designed by Akio Morita and Kozo Ohsone.

iPod (2001), designed by Jonathan Ive and the Apple industrial design team.

Makerbot Replicator 2 desktop 3-D printer (2012).

FQO2W FW777 foldable selfie quadcopter drone with remote control (2017).

IWC Schaffhausen IW500912 Big Pilot’s watch (2002).

Olivetti Divisumma 18 calculator (1973), designed by Mario Bellini.

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