Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile we feature Robert Grubbs, design director and vice president at GMMB in D.C. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Robert, please provide us a short bio.
I’m design director and vice president at GMMB in Washington, D.C. I have been with GMMB since 2000 and, during that time, have worked on a wide variety of social- and issues-based advertising and brand work, all with the aim of our company’s mission “creating real & lasting change in the world”.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
No, between my work schedule and personal life there is not a lot of time left to jump into other things right now.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I have to go the sappy route and say my 32-year relationship and marriage (2009) to my husband, Sean. Not a lot of relationships make it that far, gay or straight, so I’m very proud that we have been able to keep it strong, interesting, and continue to have that same love and support for each other we have always had, even after all these years.
Who were your personal role models and why?
From a very young age, I always knew I wanted to be in commercial art as a profession, even before I really knew what a commercial artist was (and we don’t even really call it that anymore, I am so old). There was a friend of my aunt that made a living creating sculptures and art pieces and I always looked up to him as someone I wanted to be as cool as one day. He turned out to be the pivotal reason I went to art school and ended up in this profession.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career and, if so, what was the advice?
His advise was instrumental to getting me where I am today. I got out of high school and was drifting and working at a cotton factory in the south. Was I going to do this for the rest of my life (temporarily forgetting all about the artist dream)? One week I decided I had enough, quit my job, packed my car and headed north to visit my aunt, with no real plan in place. While there, we went to this family friend’s house for dinner, started talking about art, went out to his studio, talked some more, and he convinced me I needed to “do what you love” and to go to art school and make a career of it. The following Monday I had an interview; Tuesday I was accepted; and, by Wednesday, I was enrolled in school – and the rest is history.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Stick to what you know, do what you love and don’t let others sway you from your path.
What advice do you have about what’s appropriate attire for your organization?
Work clothes are changing so much, and when you are a “creative” you get some extra latitude. I just try and stay fun and not go too crazy, but definitely on the edge. You want to stand out while keeping some air of professionalism, but you want your clothing to reflect your creative personality. First impressions count for a lot.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
While I love the high-end designer stores like Diesel, True Religion and Scotch & Soda, I have to mix it with my converse and things you can get from the cheaper discount stores to keep the looks interesting and not spend all my money on clothes – and not look like everyone else on the street. I love mixing-and-matching both; it helps you get to a more unique end result.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I love what I do for a living, love working at GMMB, and so glad my aunt took me to dinner with that family friend all those years ago.