Our next staff profile is long overdue, and we were lucky enough to grab a few moments with Kelly Rickert, the Goodman’s creative director, to talk about his work in our design office. All of the Goodman’s marketing materials are created by Kelly and his colleagues—a job that requires the keen artistic talent to evoke the essence of a play through imagery.
And after you’re done with the interview, be sure to check out the work that Kelly and his team did on our 2013/2014 Season campaign (After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, no?).
Andrew Knight: How long have you worked at the Goodman?
Kelly Rickert: I’ve been at the Goodman for ten years.
AK: What drew you to work in this position, and/or what drew you to work in theater?
KR: I went to school at the Art Institute of Chicago, which used to be attached to the Goodman Theatre. I always thought it’d be a cool place to work, and one day—many years later—I saw a listing on Creative Hotlist for a designer here. I’d been working as a designer for a few different agencies: I was the creative director for a place called Torque; and then I had my own thing; and then I saw the Goodman listing, and I figured I’d try it out. And I got the job.
AK: What are your primary job duties?
KR: As the creative director I develop the imagery for our shows and, along with Senior Designer Amanda Good and Designer Jessica Seifert, design communication materials for the entire institution—everything from posters to ads to direct mail pieces and invitations. I’m also the keeper of the brand—our brand is in part the visual aesthetic that unifies all the communication pieces we generate—to make sure that everything the public sees is in line with our mission.
In collaboration with Marketing Director Lori Kleinerman, we concept and design a subscription campaign that introduces our season and showcases the productions as a cohesive offering. Although these campaigns are unique from year to year, the design and communication falls under the umbrella of the overall Goodman Theatre brand. The same is true for the image design for each individual show. When I’m creating the image that will best represent a production, I have to look at how the image will best serve the play, the season as a whole and how it ties into our brand. On top of all that, the image needs to motivate people to buy tickets.
AK: Is there anything you do in your job that most people find surprising, or that they wouldn’t expect you to do?
KR: Because it’s a theater and different than a typical agency, you sort of have to be a jack-of-all-trades and do a lot of different things here. It’s not unusual for designers here to interact with the board, construct displays or to work events, etc. It’s all a part of working in a theater.
AK: In what capacity do you support or interact with artists?
KR: I work with Artistic Director Robert Falls quite a bit while we’re coming up with show imagery—and, of course, when we’re doing something for a play that he’s directing, as well. It’s a lot of information gathering and research so when I begin my work I have the necessary inspiration.
I also show comps to directors and playwrights when they’re here to get their input. Some are very interested in collaborating with me on the process. And, of course, we use actors in our show images, and I’ll be there to oversee the shoot and give direction.
AK: What has been your favorite Goodman production during the time you’ve worked here?
KR: That’s a hard question! I’ve loved a lot of the work that we’ve done here. Some that were particularly special to me are Finishing the Picture (it was an honor to meet Arthur Miller), Crumbs from the Table of Joy, and King Lear. I also really enjoy the Latino Theater Festival; I love Marta Carrasco’s work.
AK: Do you work with other theater companies around town? What are your hobbies outside of work?
KR: I do some work for Raven Theatre Company, a storefront in town. I originally got involved with them because my daughter took some classes there as a kid (and now she actually works there in casting and stage management).
I’m also a painter, and I play bass in a band.
AK: Who is your favorite Christmas Carol character, and why?
KR: I’m going to be very traditional and say Bob Cratchit: he’s a man who’s facing some hard times but still has fervor for life.