18 Years of Life at Masters Group Design

Posted on: May 19th, 2011 by


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.

Author: Benjamin Brown

Creative Partner, Masters Group Design

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  1. Eric Cantor says:


  2. Leon Morris says:

    Mazal tov, Lisa and all of MGD. What a privilege it has been to work with you for 13 of those 18 years — first at The New York Kollel and then at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning. You made us look great, and were able to “translate” ideas into powerful images. And I can’t think of nicer people to have worked with!

    And, oh yea, you even designed my wedding invitation.

    Can’t thank you enough for your talents and warmth!


  3. Happy Birthday and many, many more.
    It’s great to work with you.

  4. Janine says:

    Congratulations to Lisa and the team at Masters! I love the photos, although some of them make me feel old. 🙂

  5. Bernardo says:

    So proud of being part of this amazing story. To many more chais.

    And never forget: here at Masters Group Design we strive for perfection.

    PS: You know sometimes I still think “Masters Group Design, how may I help you?” when my phone rings at work.

  6. Don James says:

    Happy Birthday, MGD!!! Blog looks beautiful!

  7. Happy Birthday Masters Design Group!! It has been fun taking photos to go with your wonderful designs. Keep up the great work!

  8. Congratulations! Just finished another project with Vicki Gray at MGD and everyone at the Friends of the Wissahickon is excited to showcase the publication at our Annual Meeting in June. Thanks for all your hard work, talent, and patience! Denise

  9. Bobbi Cohen says:

    Lisa, Benjamin and Vicki,

    Mazel tov and congratulations on the first 18 years of Masters Group Design. You are an awesome team and I’ve enjoyed working with you on behalf of LimmudPhilly. Best wishes for your continued success!

  10. Mara Lipschutz says:

    Mozel Tov and many more! You’ve come a long way babies.

  11. rebecca rutstein says:

    Happy Birthday MGD!!! Congrats, Lisa, i’m happy to have been part of your amazing studio early on, and wish you and your team continued success! Hope we can continue to work together on future projects too.

  12. Dana says:

    Lisa – I loved reading your story! What an amazing thing you’ve built – not just a business, but a community. Congratulations.

  13. Caroline Piven says:

    Lisa and everyone at Masters, A marvelous milestone. Well deserved kudos to you and all the team players. I wish you many more years of business successes! In my book, you are the best presenter I’ve ever known.

  14. Congratulations Lisa and everyone at MGD!!

  15. Maja Lundborg-Gray says:

    I am so so proud of my close friend from Trinity! Congrats…congrats…congrats! All your hard work and dedication has made this milestone a reality. Many wishes for continued professional successes. I enjoyed the book:)

  16. Esther Lewis says:

    OY VEY, I’m kvelling over MGD’s accomplishments!! I miss the team and the camaraderie. I look back fondly on what I learned at MGD as a starting point for my current pursuits.

    Schvesther Schlewis

  17. Lisa Gunty says:

    what an amazing journey you have been on…mazael tov.

  18. Wendy says:

    Mazel tov! Your work is amazing and always dazzles me!!

  19. Susan says:

    What an excellent story of commitment to creativity and making a more beautiful world. Congratulations Lisa and company!!

  20. Janice Fisher says:

    Better late than never to say……(1) yes, the photos make me feel paleolithic, and (2) it’s a joy to work with MGD past, present, and (I’ll go out on a limb here)future. Janice

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