He was the talented designer and guru that founded R/GA with his brother Robert in NY doing film titles and special effects throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Richard was the firms’s creative force and Robert was the business and visionary end of the company. They both were a little nerdy and seemed like college professors. I had never met anybody in the film industry on either coast like them. Theirs was a rags-to-riches story that can be found in several other articles and publications elsewhere online. Richard’s minimalist print graphic approach influenced a generation of designers and filmmakers including myself, Marcus Nispel, Kyle Cooper, and Michael Riley among others. Richard and Robert found their foothold with the adventurous title sequence to Richard Donner’s original Superman. The opening was slit-scan and slick, and ahead of its time with its direct in-your-face approach. Up next were the ground-breaking titles to Ridley Scott’s Alien, with tense deconstructed type.
Richard was a gentle soul, but stubborn and articulate about his approach to design. He appropriated processes that most take for granted, reduced them, and looked at them in a fresh way. He was never concerned with trends, but the core of the narrative. Honestly he made the trends. The titles to Dirty Dancing and World According to Garp immediately come to mind. His work has been imitated many times over, but never with the power and integrity of his original work.
As a backstory to meeting the Greenbergs, I had just moved to NY in 1985 and was looking for work. I was being considered to direct an advertising campaign for Bell Atlantic through Robert Abel and Associates (in LA), when I was told by the Abel sales rep to go visit R/GA. Apparently through a series of backdoor permutations R/GA (unknowingly) was going to get the very large Bell Atlantic account and would need help. R/GA reluctantly granted an interview with me. They called me back the next day (mostly through Richard Greenberg’s intervention) to begin a grueling production schedule for four complicated spots over the next few months. Richard and I immediately hit it off together and understood each other’s points of view. After I designed the storyboards and key frames, Richard mentored me into the live action scenario by showing me how to set up the complicated camera shots for the R/GA efx crew. The crew was not particularly welcoming, but Richard held firm. I began to learn the basics through his tutelage and to understand the extreme importance of editing and pre-production details. I worked off and on with R/GA for a couple years freelance before being asked to design and direct on a more permanent basis. By this time Richard was working on a feature (Little Monsters) and finally moving to LA to eventually start his own company. I saw him less as time went on, but remember his kindness and persistent design visions. My ideas were much more painterly, but I had so much respect for Richard’s talent and graphic approaches.
Richard was a great influence and friend to me. I was very fortunate to have known and worked with him. He will be missed.