Theater or theatre? “Theater” is the common spelling in American English, while “theatre” is used pretty much everywhere else. We’re in America, yet around our office we’re used to “theatre.” Why? Because of our nearly 10-year relationship with the Des Moines Community Playhouse. They prefer the more worldly “theatre” spelling of the word, and now it’s in our brains that way!

The Playhouse is a community institution in central Iowa. Founded in 1919, it is the oldest continuously operating theatre in Iowa, and one of the largest community theatres in the nation. Over 70,000 attendees visit the theatre for over 200 performances each year on the Mainstage and Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre. More than 2,000 students participate annually in theatre classes, workshops and summer camps. And, over 4,000 underserved children experience theatre with complimentary tickets.

To make it all happen, 1,700 volunteers are involved each year as stagehands, costume designers, and set designers, giving 75,000 hours.

We have the privilege of being on the team that makes all of these wonderful theatre experiences happen. Sally serves on the Des Moines Playhouse Marketing Committee, and our agency has done design work for the theatre for almost 10 years. We support all of their efforts, including season and show promotion, advertising classes and workshops through their education department, website support, and fundraising.


We started working with the Des Moines Community Playhouse in 2008, when we used our Persona Study process to develop a brand-new and award-winning logo for the theatre. We have continued our work as “brand shepherd”, making sure all new building signage, print materials, advertising, and any other elements are in step with the Playhouse identity & voice.

“The highest compliment we receive, and we receive it often, is when someone tells us they recognize Playhouse materials,” said Lee Ann Bakros, Playhouse marketing & public relations director. “Cooper Smith very smartly developed a look that conveys theatre through the use of a stylized curtain in our logo and red curtains in our print materials. The look is classy, and incorporates photos from shows and classes wherever possible to convey the quality and fun that guests associate with the Playhouse.”


In 2014 and 2015, we worked with the Playhouse team and eWay Corp on a complete website overhaul. The goal was to make the site responsive, but we also wanted an intuitive user experience. To make ticket purchasing seamless, we also added a page skin and header to the Ticketforce page to keep a cohesive look and feel.  (When buying tickets, customers go to a separate page run by the ticketing platform Ticketforce.)


Our work each season begins with season ticket promotion. We help design mailing campaigns for season ticket holders and campaigns to attract new subscribers. We also develop show logos, all designed to reproduce well at a glance and from a distance on window graphics, and in all other print & digital promotions. Throughout the season we design posters, ads, mailers and other assets as needed, and we manage Google & Facebook advertising campaigns.


The Playhouse Education Department helps students explore theatre and fosters an appreciation of the arts. We work with the staff on print and digital promotions for Friday Funday and Second Saturday events,  school matinees, and other classes & workshops. In addition, we also design the Playbill Jr., a kid-friendly playbill for children’s theatre performances.


As a non-profit, fundraising efforts are critical to Playhouse operations. For Act 1 of their capital campaign, we designed recognition banners, email headers, pledge forms, event invitations, and a 16-page booklet. This phase of construction required over $4,600,000 in donations. Improvements included the new 42nd Street lobby and updated main lobby, new signage, among many other updates. We will produce similar assets for Act 2 of the capital campaign, which will require an additional $4,500,000. This phase of renovation will include an overhaul of the Mainstage auditorium, ADA and safety improvements, upgrades to the education and volunteer areas, plus mechanical and safety systems updates.


The 2018-2019 season marks 100 years for the Des Moines Community Playhouse. We’re preparing for the celebration with a special “100th anniversary” version of the logo. This will be used on letterhead and other branded materials throughout the season. The theatre is celebrating with “Countdown to 100” performances, featuring flashbacks through Broadway and Playhouse history. We’ve designed the promotions for each of these events. Finally, the Playhouse team also has an Anniversary Gala and 100th Birthday Party in the works.

We are pleased to be one of the corporate partners of Des Moines Community Playhouse. This organization is key to the cultural landscape of our community, bringing great theatrical and educational experiences to central Iowa. We look forward to the next 100 years of community theatre in Des Moines!