Spectrum Science’s chief creative officer, Justin Rubin, jokes that he’s from the dark side of the moon, a play on the iconic Pink Floyd album cover artwork from which the company took its name. Rubin was one of the leaders of the company’s recent rebranding, an effort that produced the new tagline Beyond the Science Quo. When not busy engineering what he calls “atomic creative,” Rubin says he can be found caring for his ever-expanding guitar collection, wife, daughters and dogs Scruffy and Cookie — although not in that order. Here’s what we found while picking his brain:
So, what do you do all day?
Ok, I’ll play along with the interrogation. We’re building an agency model that doesn’t exist, so there’s a tremendous amount of adventure on a regular basis. But branding four offices, crafting creative briefs, pitching, ideating, putting out fires, setting fires — that sounds like a good morning to me.
How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do?
I always knew I’d be doing something creative — my brain just doesn’t work any other way.
What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?
I studied advertising and journalism at Indiana University, which legitimized this as a path forward. But nothing can actually prepare you for this career. It’s really baptism by fire: you learn by doing.
Any quirks in your career path? Odd jobs? Bad jobs? Cool jobs?
More like a colossal false start. I actually started out as an assistant account executive. I was so driven to get a job right out of school that I took the first one I was offered. There I was, a creative trapped in an account role and terrible suit. That didn’t go too well. After a few months I walked into one of the partners offices and said, “I think you have me in the wrong department.” She gave me a shot at creative, bless her heart. Her name was Judy Lotas. I’ve been doing it ever since. Thank you, Judy.
What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office?
Small, focused and passionate group, closed door — I’m not a fan of interruptions. Definitely a musical backdrop, preferably the Stones.
Name five things that help you do your job better.
- My colleagues
- My wife
- Iced coffee
- Please see 1-4
Jeans. V-Neck T Shirt. Floyd Fedora.
What piece of work/project/campaign/creation are you most proud of?
I’m proud of people, not projects.
What’s your favorite color right now?
Black. Always and forever black. Anyone who tells you that black isn’t a color is lying. Do not trust them.
Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative?
I come at this one from a slightly different angle. I learned what not to do, or how not to act from people along this journey. I remember when I was starting out, I was on an interview with a creative director and he just leaned into me as he was reviewing my work. He said something like “No, no, I could never work with you.” As he said that I noticed he had a lot of KISS memorabilia, and I thought well I can’t work with a guy that thinks KISS is a proper band. No offense, KISS fans.
Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why?
I write songs and play guitar. The process of writing a song is both baffling and magical. You can’t force it — it comes when it is damn well good and ready.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure.
I have three words for you: live Grateful Dead. Talk about creativity. They put themselves out there night after night making music, not just playing music. There’s a difference. No band or brand is more beloved.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that.
See Sound from Wavio and FCB is going to help people. The Tampon Tax PR campaign is brilliant. The Ad Council’s “Saved by the Scan” hits the note as well. Oops. that’s three.
Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?
The great pyramid. Must have been one hell of a 3D printer.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I imagine I will find out someday.
How do you recharge?
With great difficulty. To really recharge I have to completely step away, sever myself from thinking and responsibility. Then it’s safe to come back.
What’s your happy place?
Wait, there’s a happy place? Now you have my attention…
Pastel or oil? Oil.
Sound or vision? Sounds. It’s far more picturesque.
Strings or horns? Nothing beats a killer horn section
Clear or cluttered? Uncluttered.
Morning or night? Morning, in-between the first and second cup of coffee.
Design school or liberal arts? Ugh, school.