Romy Nehme

Making worthy ideas visible in the world through brand & strategy design

My story

Redesigning our systems starts with the bold act of reimagining. If everything we encounter was once designed: why not have the audacity to do it better?

Hi, I'm Romy Nehme. After looking for that elusive thing, purpose, in the worlds of sports & entertainment, advertising, immersive arts, and civic media in the last 15 years, I've come back to my original passion: sports and fandom.

I was at a fundraising luncheon with a mix of powerful vestry and corporate board members when a woman across the room signaled to me that she wanted to talk afterwards. I thought for sure that what I'd said in my introduction about media, tech and democracy working together was what piqued her interest. But when I walked over, she exclaimed something about women's sports (!). I came back to my seat and the person beside me launched into a story about how he takes his son to watch basketball games in NBA arenas across different states as a way of immersing him in all the different people and cultures that make up this country; histories that he otherwise wouldn't encounter.

I realized that sports aren't just at the burning core of my identity -- having forged my competitiveness, my deep allegiance with underdogs and the sacredness of the ritual of watching this beautiful theater, of hollering and bickering in ecstasy (and fervent disagreement) with others. Sports also bring all that I have been working towards together: resilient spaces of belonging with an incredible socializing function at a time when we need to find our way back to one another.

That brings me to my mission: helping shape the future of women's sports and transformative organizations that are designing bold business models and spaces where vibrant public life can flourish.

If you are working on something that seeks to reveal, rather than to conceal, and demands that we bring forth our curiosity, courage, compassion and creativity, I would love to talk to you. Reach out at romy at beautifulseams dot org.

Working together

Here's what you can expect from collaborating with me on building meaningful and memorable brands, platforms, IP and creative & media systems:

  • Quickly generating momentum with sharp questions, deep provocations, relentless curiosity and by illuminating unobvious connections;

  • Creative research to find fertile opportunity areas and possibility spaces that are ripe for our time of reimagining;

  • Connecting data, research and insights from unexpected sources into a single and exciting strategic perspective from which business, product, brand, partnership and marketing decisions can flow;

  • Applying the most innovative and efficient tools from the worlds of brand building, digital advertising, emerging technology and experience design to everything we make;

  • Dynamic workshops and collaborative methods that bring different people to the table in invigorating and effective ways;

  • A spirit and leadership quality that I bring into every room grounded in the belief that what we can dare to imagine, we can build together.

Beautiful Seams refers to a design philosophy (coined by Marc Weiser of Xerox PARC) that speaks to designing seams into a system rather than seamless-ness. And it's core to my approach as a leader, strategy designer and collaborator. Top-down overdesigned / overproduced brands and experiences don't leave room for agency, participation and generativity -- which I hold to be the most important design principles of all (!).

What others are saying

Romy has one of the most innovative and thoughtful creative minds I've worked with. She's strategic and visionary, a deep thinker and a smart creator — and she's great to work with, too.

Eli Pariser - Co-director, New_ Public and previously Co-founder, Upworthy

The hardest part about collaborating with a genius is that they know everything. In Romy’s case her massive intellect and wealth of knowledge is infused with a deep curiosity. This wild concoction creates a lethally strategic tincture that applied in liberal doses can soothe any business problem, heal any consumer need and allow real creatives to grow in crazy directions.

Nathan Phillips - Co-founder and CCO, Technology, Humans and Taste

Romy is the rare kind of creative strategist and collaborator who combines intuitive understanding, innate and sophisticated insight and an ability to bring teams along with her while shifting the lens of thinking to get to more expansive powerful ideas.

Katie Hankinson - SVP, The Sasha Group

Romy is *whiplash* smart, a gifted polymath who curates the most interesting-est things in the universe, and a robust thinker guaranteed to uplevel your strategy and imagination.

Sharon Panelo - VP, The Martin Agency

Romy creates a vortex of intellect and emotional power that condenses possibilities into the clearest steps toward the brightest point on the horizon. A true cultivator and champion of the unimaginably right idea.

Ben Doepke - Principal, Brand Mythologist and Ethnographer, IX

Romy is a wonderful collaborator. The way that she can process and synthesize information in real-time is incredible; her reservoir of knowledge and ability to actively listen and embrace ambiguity make her a unique and important part of our lab. And most importantly -- she is an amazing human being!

Lance Weiler - Founder, Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab

How I got here

  1. Sport is the only language my father and I share. Consequently, the rituals of fandom have shaped who I am, and the beginnings of my career. After my masters in sport management, I worked in various segments of the sports & entertainment industry. I cut my teeth in sponsorship marketing and media valuation with clients like FedEx, IBM, vitaminwater and the then Charlotte Bobcats; built a team marketing & business operations function at the NLL based on the NBA's blueprint that gathered intelligence from, and shared insights with all teams; led brand and marketing for Canada's top college basketball program; and eventually transitioned to the sports journalism side for ESPN and SBNation affiliates.

    Fluencies developed: Building CRM systems to nurture fan and donor relationships, developing tracking and measurement methods for sponsorship programs and media asset valuation, understanding tiered, bundling and promotional ticket pricing strategies, and creating programs and rituals that deepen relationships between a community, fans and its sports teams and athletes.

  2. I had the great fortune of starting the discipline of research & strategy at VaynerMedia, one of the fastest growing digital and emergent technology agencies. There, I learned the importance of rapid iteration and hypothesis testing, and of creating campaigns grounded in communicating with audiences in distinct ways based on each digital platform’s affordances. I also built and nurtured a team of 25 wonderful cultural researchers and strategists and a multidisciplinary prototyping studio.

    Fluencies developed: Creating spaces where diverse groups can experiment and grow; putting together the agency’s stack of research and analytics tools; building new offerings and revenue streams; designing dynamic research projects with a wide range of communities using various digital research methods; pitching, planning and executing campaigns and growing digital properties for Fortune 100 companies, dynamic startups in new ambiguous categories that had to be defined, and nonprofits -- using the combined power of creative and media across a dozen verticals.

  3. I’ve consciously searched for collaborators whose practices were more immersive, embodied and participative. I’ve become a core member of the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab, a group that creates platforms for exploring complex societal issues through reimagining literary works with emergent technologies (e.g. Frankenstein AI, a Monster Made by Many); a frequent collaborator with Technology, Humans and Taste, where I curated “research” dinner conversations and prompts to answer briefs in more interesting ways; and a student of IX’s thick ethnography methods, audience archetype tool and collaborator on various projects.

    Fluencies developed: Methods of speculative design to explore uncertain futures; deeper modes of conversation design and research, from ethnographies to appreciative inquiry and world cafes; becoming more comfortable with ambiguity; prototyping and testing human dynamics and mechanics of immersive productions that ran at Tribeca Film Festival, Lincoln Center, IDFA, Sundance, etc; developing virtual workshops and toolkits for global decentralized participation.

  4. I found myself thinking often about how our media mostly connects a lot of strangers to a personality, or idea, and how poorly it does a job of making it easier for people to connect with each other. And I marveled at the city’s ability, at its best, to be a serendipitous collision machine. I designed an independent study to learn more about the design of cities and public spaces, and ended up creating a little podcast series called The Third Person, where I interviewed people who design for bodies in space across a wide range of disciplines (a dance choreographer, urban geographer, narrative interactive designer, placemaker, etc.). That work led me to Eli Pariser and Talia Stroud, and launching New_ Public, an incubator for reimagining the internet as a digital public space. I co-led all branding and communications efforts, curated and designed our inaugural festival and outreach strategy to help mobilize the space based on research into the various communities we thought could move the space forward.

    Fluencies developed: Translating complex ideas, research and principles into a delightful a) brand that attracted a range of donors and participants and b) digital ecosystem for an eclectic public-spirited community, including: immersive learning tools based on New_ Public's design language, a conversational Substack newlsetter and themed magazines, dynamic zoom / Miro launch events for research projects, and curatorial and creative direction of a series of videos.

  5. I had the pleasure of collaborating with one of my intellectual heroes through the New_ Public festival, Krista Tippett, which led me to my next project as the Head of Strategy & Experience for On Being. I helped lead the effort of stewarding On Being into its next chapter by implementing an expanded brand identity system and relaunch plan that brought On Being’s media and public life work into one powerful and legible framework. The work included:

    • Creating a new brand architecture based on ethnographic and quant research to reflect the evolution of the Project comprising On Being Studios, On Being Labs and On Being Gatherings; 

    • Evolving the On Being narrative and messaging strategy to retain the essence of what has drawn millions of people to it – while also making clearer its value and proposition to new audiences and partners. 

    • A connected ecosystem of marketing activities designed to bring the community closer to the Project and building an exciting innovation pipeline to help listeners further internalize the wisdom from 20 years of riveting conversations.

    Fluencies developed: close thought and creative partnership with a founder on things both foundational and new and innovative during a repositioning of On Being away from radio and into a multiplatform identity beyond the airwaves; an even sharper attunement, love and care for words -- and the ability to inhabit nuance while resurfacing with accessible and inviting language that speaks to a broad public without flattening meaning; newfound wisdom about alignment and autonomy.

Ideas that guide me

Utility is an outcome, a byproduct of beauty, meaning and value creation. Everything is interesting, and eventually, useful in some unpredictable way (which only reveals itself at the time of doing it). I spent years inhabiting a humanistic corner of the art+tech community when it could have been deemed “useless” to my work before incorporating it into my own practice and projects.

I love thinking creatively about form -- whether it be in media, about new containers for community, models for membership, in writing or immersive design. Content dictates form, and finding the right form makes for transportive and impactful work.

Certainty is destructive, and getting people to sit with ambiguity is trying (for me, and others!), but rewarding.

The right metaphors and visual language aid in making the unfamiliar feel more tangible, in transporting us away, at least temporarily, from the high stakes of our present conditions and entanglements.

Similarly, imagination is real. Fiction is a form of experiencing. Speculation can be a powerful way of organizing.

Ethnographies work when you let people know you’re interested in them, not in their answers. Aim for the intersubjective, not the interactive. (Thanks, Ben.)

We breathe merely to survive. What if we instead breathed to the rhythm of life? (Thanks, Tynan.)

We will not have succeeded at creating a just society until we have difference without domination.