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R/GA’s Gus Cook on Brand Design and Consulting


Executive creative director of R/GA's global brand practice BDC on his secret weapon and his creative process

R/GA’s Gus Cook on Brand Design and Consulting

Gus Cook is a designer and creative director, working on global and local brands with the talented network of thinkers and makers at R/GA. He is currently the executive creative director of brand design and consulting, an offering that serves to invent (or reinvent) businesses by combining innovation consulting, brand design, and technology.

Q> What's your secret weapon when it comes to success in your role?

Gus> I wouldn't say I have any secret weapon. More just a solid history of errors to learn from.

One of the biggest traps you learn early on as a creative leader is assuming your job is to tell people how to think and what to do. Surprise, surprise, if you want people to think like you and design like you, you'll end up on a pretty solitary path.

While any lead should establish their “own style,” trying to build an army of clones seldom leads to interesting and integrated work or the 'unlock' of new ideas. 

For me (us), success in the role is identifying and incubating the right spaces and creative processes needed for different expertise (from production, strategy, visual, verbal, and beyond) to come together as one collective (and supportive) "brand trust."  

It's tough, requires some key shared team behaviors, and is not always the fastest way to work, but as the overused but undeniably true expression goes— "Go fast, go alone, go far, go together."

Q> In your words, how would you define BDC and how does it help brands and businesses? 

Gus> BDC is R/GA's global brand practice. We are a global collective of regionally run teams; with a presence in the US, APAC, EMEA, and LATAM. 

We help companies define their core brand operating system that informs how they interface with the world.

On any given day, our teams help brands tackle their most foundational challenges; Identify a company's purpose, design visual, verbal, and behavioral identity systems, and deliver dynamic brand management tools.

Q> What is a common challenge you find when working with businesses on BDC?

Gus> Time. There’s always something more we can do, and someone else who can help us make the work better.


Q> How has BDC changed since the start of your career and where do you see it going in the next few years? 

Gus> I've been part of BDC (and it’s former iteration “BT”) since I joined R/GA ~7 years ago. 

I've had the privilege of working with all the past and present people who have contributed to it. If I were to sum it all up, I would say in the past, we were a prototype; today BDC has been re-engineered to put ‘getting to great work,’ first. Prioritizing the integration with the broader set of expertise only the R/GA network can offer. 

Winning for us in 2023 is establishing a reputation in the industry through work that no other agency could do because no other agency can bring the teams that we can together. 

Getting to great work requires treating each brief as an opportunity to bring in new expertise, so we show up with more holistic, ambitious thinking across a brand's entire experience. Not just a fancy logo. That means putting collaboration at the forefront of how we work and win.

It's been a journey, but we're getting there. Work like XFL, Google Play, Fierce (out of BDC NY), Timb Trails, A-Leagues, and ZIG (out of BDC APAC), and Eon Next (out of BDC EMEA) are great examples of where integration has helped us stand out and apart from our closest competitors in the more traditional branding industry.

Q> In your experience, what is the most interesting thing about our BDC practice?

Gus> The team. As a collective and individuals. Hands down the best part of being in BDC.

Q> What would you do differently if you could restart your career? 

Gus> Take more risks creatively.

Take advantage of opportunities and funds to learn new skills and tools.

Take more accountability over my own downtime. 

Q> Describe your creative process.

Gus> Get out in the world so that you can bring it back to your desk.

Q> What makes you feel included at work? 

Gus> Space for conversation. From my experience, formal meetings are where we can observe how extroverts succeed; but a simple coffee walk or whiteboard sketch is where some of the best introverted talent can have the space to share and shine.

Q> What makes you motivated to pursue non-work projects and goals? 

Gus> Imposter syndrome. Whether it's testing out a new recipe, building a cabinet, or relationships with loved-ones. My motivation is the fear that it all can be taken away in a heartbeat. On the plus side, it keeps me motivated. On the downside, it's toxic AF. Can you tell I'm a millennial? 

Q> What was your last adventure? 

Gus> Cycling around Colombia. Best adventure in a long time; doing it again next month. 

Q> What book, film, or song that's profoundly affected you?

Gus> Purple Rain by Prince. I can listen to that entire album back to back for hours. There's no real profound reason; it’s just, time and time again, it takes me on an emotional journey that all great albums should.

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R/GA US, Thu, 06 Oct 2022 13:51:00 GMT