The lovely print magazine you’re holding comes courtesy of Bob Mansfield, who oversaw the design for this issue much in the way he has for the previous 854 or so. He has decided this will also be his last, a capstone for someone who, more than anyone, influenced how Forbes appeared to the world for the past 37-plus years.
Bob’s career echoes the modern era of Forbes. His name first appeared in the iconic inaugural issue of The Forbes 400 “rich list” in 1982. The junior art assistant’s job description: “help on whatever needed to be done.” This was before personalcomputer ubiquity, when magazines were laid out on paper using black-and-white photos fresh from the Forbes darkroom. Eventually, Bob began designing Malcolm Forbes’ column, a tough assignment given the powerful, perfectionist protagonist. “It was like riding a bicycle on the edge of a volcano,” he says. “Beautiful and dangerous.”
As the Macintosh became designers’ machine of choice, young Mansfield took the lead. “I was invited out to Palo Alto to visit Stanford,” Bob recalls. “I was one of the first art directors to try out this thing called ‘Photoshop.’” In 1997, he created the design for what is now Forbes Asia.
By 1999, he was design director of the flagship. Bob’s first cover shoot: a Jerry Seinfeld/Sean Combs mashup. “I was scared to death,” he says. “There were no monitors then, so you had no idea how the image came out until you developed the film. And Puff Daddy, as he was known then, was quite demanding.”
Bob got that shot, and a few thousand more followed, with presidents and kings and pretty much every major business figure of this century passing through his computer. Bob is unflappable. He chews up deadline pressure like vitamins, setting a collegial tone for the entire staff.
In 2017, for our 100th-anniversary issue, he again found himself shooting Sean Combs. “I told him how nervous I had been at that first shoot,” he says. “He confided that he was, too. He said looking good on the cover of Forbes launched his business career, and he thanked me.” On behalf of millions of our readers and hundreds of your colleagues past and present, let me thank you as well, Bob. You made history beautiful.