This week, men and women across the world of advertising came together to honor the life and career of Dave Swartz, who passed tragically and unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 54.
Swartz, who hailed from Miami, spent most of his 30-plus year career at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder, most recently serving as vp, executive director of art direction and design and overseeing the shop’s team of visually-oriented creatives. Throughout his career, he worked on major campaigns for brands such as Burger King, IKEA, Miller Lite, Volkswagen, Best Buy, Virgin Atlantic and many more.
But his interests ran well beyond advertising. He was particularly passionate about fine art, traveling to Italy to study classical sculpture early in his career and, more recently, dressing up as Albrecht Dürer’s famously Christ-like self-portrait for “the best agency headshot ever.”
“I don’t have the words for this. Dave was one of my oldest friends,” said agency founder and chairman Chuck Porter. “He’s been with us from the beginning and he was a guide, mentor and friend to more people here than anyone I can think of. We’ll miss him so much it hurts.”
Swartz died while biking through Colorado with longtime friend and former colleague Alex Bogusky.
Many current and former co-workers, including McCann Worldgroup global creative chairman Rob Reilly, shared their sentiments on Facebook. Last night Bogusky wrote a short essay on his relationship with Swartz that we have reprinted in its entirety below:
I didn’t have the honor to attend David Swartz’s birth (in my defense I wasn’t born yet), but I hear from his mom that he was a skinny little baby with a giant appetite. By the time I met him, he had grown into a gangly 12-year-old boy, and that appetite had grown into an insatiable curiosity. I could tell there was something different about him right away. The most obvious thing was that he was kinder than any 12-year-old boy that I knew. This struck me as weird because boys were supposed to be tough, but I liked it. So I decided we should be best friends and maybe even brothers if I could convince my parents.
As much as life tried to pull us apart—and it did try—we somehow kept magnetically snapping back together. Over the next forty-plus years, Dave grew into a big bear of a man and along the way introduced me to most of the things I love in life: BMX, surfing and, eventually, even my wife Ana.
I’m afraid to think of how my life would have been without Dave, but now, suddenly, I have to.
People are fond of consoling themselves by saying, “so and so died doing what they loved,” but in Dave’s case this is as true and romantic as it sounds. And no, it wasn’t advertising. He didn’t meet his end slumped over a PowerPoint deck. Sure, he liked advertising and he really loved that making ads provided for his family. He was just so talented that he excelled at anything creative.
What did he love? He loved to sculpt, especially in Italy. He loved to surf, especially with his son, Filippo. He loved to eat, especially his wife Luciana’s cooking. He loved to draw, especially, well … all the time. And he loved to ride, especially downhill bikes. He did it with a beautiful style and ease that pissed me off when we were young, but I grew to admire and love it as we got older.
This Sunday, David was on his favorite trail on his favorite mountain jumping his bike through a bright green Rocky Mountain forest. He went into the air, weightless. Once. Twice. A third time. I could hear his tires behind me as he was close and letting me know. Three perfectly banked turns came next, and he glided through them as we came out into a meadow and coasted to a stop.
I turned to exchange high-fives, but he was gone. I looked around, confused, and eventually found him. But he already had one foot in Heaven or Valhalla or Nirvana or whatever is reserved for the very best of us.
Aristotle famously said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” His point was that every space must be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air. As the love came rushing in to fill the enormous hole left by Dave’s departure, I kept thinking of Aristotle’s observation. This love was and continues to be a torrent that has nearly swept me away at times. It doesn’t take an Aristotle to realize that David’s capacity to love must have been just as enormous and that this new love that is trying to take its place. Dozens and dozens of his family and friends are struggling to fill this gargantuan ability to love—from just one man. We will do it. I have no doubt. But the task itself is proof of how much we have lost.
I love you, Dave, and know that I will see you again. Although I missed your birth and the first 12 years of your life, we have a “bromance” that will never end.