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Folger Theatre

Washington DC’s venerated performing arts venue uses innovative approaches to staging the classics in order to speak to and reflect our shared human experience. As Folger Theatre sought to increase season subscriptions and form deeper connections and expand their audience, openbox9 built a cohesive visual narrative over multiple seasons, including extended time on the road due to building renovations.

Grid of Folger artwork ob9 created

Theater Design Process

Unsurprisingly, theater and graphic design share a similar ideology on telling a story visually. Decisions regarding the stage, costumes, lighting, and makeup help the audience understand what ride are they going to take are similar to a branding style guide or a website design. There are scores and scores of visual genres in the archives of each person’s brain. Each movie’s or show’s visual expression a viewer sees gets logged into that archive and they bring an interpretation to what a play might be about and what emotions it could evoke. To find that narrative, our creative process is as old as Shakespeare: research, sketch, discuss, and repeat… Our solutions, however, are anything but old.

Midsummer Night's Dream theme illustration/artwork.
Midsummer within the Building Museum
Photograph of Puck the donkey performing in Midsummer Night's Dream.
Sketches created by ob9 for Midsummer Night's Dream theme artwork.
Earlier directions focused on the building and the “Big Top”
Midsummer Night's Dream post production design for A-Frame sign.

Promotion to Grow Ticket Sales

Throughout each show’s run, openbox9 designed and produced over 100 ads for various mediums. Building on a solid design system, versatile artwork, and strong photography, the printed and digital promotions invited the audience into the experience, not only as passive entertainment but also as a conversation and emotional journey. The artwork created by openbox9 elevated expectations for the show, making Shakespeare accessible and exciting, a can’t-miss opportunity that increased ticket sales.

A Midsummer Night's Dream ad design, both preproduction and post production
Over 100 ads of various messages created
Artwork concept for Indulge Out Loud not selected by the client.
Indulge Out Loud theme illustration/artwork applied to pull up banner.
Season promotional mailer

Setting Audience Expectations Through Tone

As part of its mission, Folger Theatre interprets and adapts Shakespeare’s work in order to connect with a relevant theme that resonates with everyone in the audience. Connection is formed as the audience can see parts of their story reflected in the performance and leave the theater with ideas and conversations to have. openbox9’s work includes discerning an applicable tone for each show, asking questions in pursuit of meaning, in order to capture curiosity and intrigue.

Using illustrations created by openbox9 and a mix of textures, patterns, and typographic styles, we created a collective season-wide look that accompanied one of Folger Theatre’s most financially successful years of theater. Printed pieces included a season preview brochure, as well as postcards, large-scale signage, a full suite of web ads, and more. In addition to design solutions, we also worked with consultants to provide a variety of messaging and online marketing solutions to meet Folger’s evolving marketing needs.

Theme posters created for Henry IV play, both post production photography and preproduction illustration.
Through testing, we changed the marketing to focus on Gero as Falstaff which improved sales.
Post production ad created for Amadeus using photography taken during show.
Amadeus illustrated theme poster hung on hanging clips.
The Merry Wives illustrated theme poster displayed on outdoor city sign.
Two woman, in The Merry Wives performance, bumping hips and celebrating.

A Trustworthy Partner in Uncertain Circumstances

Through the unknowns presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a pre-planned construction project that put performances on the road around various DC venues, openbox9 steadily provided marketing strategies and implementation through ever-changing circumstances. openbox9 illustrated a season brand focusing on a well-loved landmark in the Folger Theatre, Puck, assuring subscribers they were following a trusted guide through an unknown journey, and developing the season theme– “Seek Me in Another Place,” referencing a quote from Shakespeare.

Seek Me in Another Place playbill spread.
Puck goes on the road!
Seek Me in Another Place email design.
Seek Me in Another Place magnet design.