Starting with our production of Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, Steppenwolf has been working in partnership with grip design to create the unique images for our subscription series posters. Backstage sat down with the designers at grip and asked them 5 Questions. 1. Your images for Frankie and Johnny, The Dresser, Cherry Orchard, Intimate Apparel and Lost Land are such a distinctive break from what Steppenwolf has done in the past. What are you trying to accomplish? We want to encourage someone predisposed to seeing theater to move from interest to action. We don’t want to lead a horse to water; we want to find the thirsty horse.Knowing that the “reader” is already interested in the play, our primary goal is to spark their imagination with an arresting image…to present a visual question that doesn’t always make perfect sense until after seeing the play. 2. What’s your process for designing a Steppenwolf image? The first step is to read the script. Then, we sit down with the director and the marketing team at Steppenwolf. This conversation is fluid and wide-ranging – anything from set design to target audiences to the director’s personal reasons for taking on the project. Based on this conversation, we develop several “comps” that each find an oblique route to the essence or spirit of the production. 3. Your image for Cherry Orchard was particularly striking and effective. What was the thinking behind this design? In the case of Cherry Orchard the initial impact of the image had to be fresh and appealing to the eye. We wanted more than anything to have an image that said this is not a stuffy restaging of Chekhov. The Steppenwolf marketing team suggested the use of white on white, to reflect the set design in the Upstairs Theatre. The combination of maraschino cherries on a winter branch with snow placed on a white background speaks to the theme of how we act when faced with the sweeping forces of change. Like the characters in Chekhov’s play, the cherries cling to their home long after the change of season. 4. I know your team of designers goes through a number of potential routes before deciding on the final image. How do you go about your decision? Because we are looking for indirect insights into a play, the process is more visceral than intellectual. We hang up our initial images at the studio and, at first, they are rough concepts with very little editing. The four strongest images are developed and presented and presented to the team at Steppenwolf. We make the final decision together based on how well it speaks to the spirit of the play, relation to prior design and visual impact. 5. Thanks, grip. One last question: Why the name grip? On the slippery slope of the business world, we are here to provide traction. Grip is located in Chicago at 560 West Washington. Principals are Kevin McConkey and Kelly Kaminski. To see more of grip’s work go to www.gripdesign.com.