18 Years of Life at Masters Group Design

May 19, 2011 History


On May 19, 1993, I was in the 3rd grade, no doubt climbing trees in Kentucky (y’all!). Vicki, my future co-worker, was a junior in high school, probably painting her nails black or heading to the record store. Lisa, however, was beginning a new journey. Equipped with a Centris 610, a black and white laser printer, and Futura Condensed, she and her grad school cohort, Ira Greenberg, had just launched Masters Group Design in Philadelphia.

It hadn’t been Lisa’s first instinct to start a business. That was Ira’s idea. But, before she knew it, plans were under way. Freshly outfitted with master’s degrees (the inspiration for their company’s name) from the University of Pennsylvania, they set up shop in the boiler room of the Drexel Building at 1435 Walnut Street. Thanks to friends and family, jobs trickled in…slowly. Within six months, the business took a turn when Ira’s interests led him elsewhere and the partnership dissolved. Lisa became sole proprietor, and the journey began. MGD started to pursue the passion it still nurtures today, creating strong visual identities to amplify the vital messages of non-profit organizations and local businesses.


During the next twelve years (1995-2007), Lisa would move the studio to a funky old former cigar factory in the Northern Liberties neighborhood and later to Mt. Airy. The talented Rebecca Rutstein worked on-site for many years, adding tremendously to the creativity of the studio. In addition to the growing client roster of arts and culture, social service, educational organizations, and local start-ups, the studio began to develop its niche in the Jewish community, which continues to be an important part of MGD’s identity today.

As business boomed, Lisa saw she needed full-time assistance. Enter Esther Lewis and Susan VanderVeer. Esther’s addition to the team brought organization, wisdom, and a creative eye that would become an invaluable part of MGD’s success for nearly a decade. Susan’s punchy style, indomitable work ethic, and “go get ‘em” attitude helped the studio transition to a new phase of competence and expertise.

Longing for its Center City roots, in 2007, MGD moved back home to Walnut Street on its 14th birthday. With the move, Lisa hired the very talented and lovable Bernardo Margulis for a summer internship. His position quickly evolved to full-time, and he served as both studio manager and designer for a year before heading off to graduate school.

In 2008, Vicki and I joined the “Group” to meet the needs of our growing client list and to allow Lisa to eat three nutritious meals daily and get a full eight hours of sound sleep every night (not!). Hired as Creative Partners, we independently manage our own projects, taking them from concepting through production and delivery. Lisa serves as Creative Director and client liaison, and spends tons of time volunteering in the city that she loves dearly.

Today we celebrate year 18 and the adventurous life of Masters Group Design (coincidentally, in Hebrew, 18 or chai means “life”!). We’re excited to embark on the next chapter of our story and hope that you’ll follow us on our blog as we describe what we’re up to. Stay tuned. We’ll be posting frequently.

We are grateful for your loyalty, confidence, and encouragement over the years. A huge shout out is deserving to our amazing editor, Janice Fisher. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way.