Roger Black's Interactive Bureau stakes new ground

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Roger Black is proof that success in traditional media can translate into the new media world. At 49, Mr. Black is already a legend in the world of print publishing design. After spending much of the 1970s and '80s serving as the staff art director of Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, The New York Times and Newsweek. Mr. Black, as president of Roger Black Inc., oversaw the redesigns of Esquire and the San Francisco Examiner [and Ad Age], and the launch designs of Out, Fast Company and Smart Money.

In 1994, he joined forces with partners Jock Spivy and David Berlow, and launched Interactive Bureau in New York. Interactive Bureau designed Web sites for MSNBC, USA Today and the Discovery Channel, as well as intranets and sites for, IBM Corp., American Express Co., @Home Network, for and others.


Like every new media professional, Mr. Black, president of Interactive Bureau, is still grappling to understand what the Internet is.

"The Internet doesn't really have its own metaphors yet," he said. "We have imported all the metaphors from other media, and everyone gets happy when something about it reminds them of [TV] or print, depending your background."

"We're moving away from the model of creative graphic design shop and ad agency. We're becoming more of a management consultant, more like KPMG [Peat Marwick] or Andersen [Consulting] than like McCann-Erickson. We are working to help companies define their business strategy on the Net."

In addition to expanding its scope, the agency is expanding its offices as well. The San Francisco bureau opened in 1995 as a two-person operation and recently grew into larger offices. In addition to New York and San Francisco, other offices are in Barcelona, Paris, London and Monterrey, Mexico.


"This is a global business," Mr. Black said. "Many of our clients are global, so it makes sense for us to be global, too. We may meet with them one week in Paris, the next in New York, the next in San Francisco. That's the way they work, so they appreciate it that we can, too."

While Mr. Black lives in California, he resisted setting up shop there because of the concentration of Web designers, he said. However, the move was inevitable.

"San Francisco is the center of Web design," he said. "We have to be here to get great people and to be in the flow of gossip and news of what's going on in this industry."


Although Interactive Bureau is fast expanding geographically, the organization employs about 40 people. The San Francisco office employs six, though Mr. Black expects that number to be around 12 by the end of the year. The international offices average around four employees each, while the New York office, at around 25, is already getting too big for Mr. Black's tastes.

"I believe in what Peter Drucker, the business organizational guru," he said. "A natural human team is the size of a primitive hunting party: 12 to 15 people."

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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