Frances “Frank” Ullenberg
Frances “Frank” Ullenberg had a quote that graced her desk which read: “Take it as far as you can until someone stops you.” Few lived that mantra as well. Frank lived her life like it was an art installation of sight, sound and texture. And when it came to her accomplishments as an art director, Frank Ullenberg was her own masterpiece, leaving an indelible mark on the creative landscape in Wisconsin.
Born in Milwaukee in 1948, her childhood was filled with music, dance, drawing and creativity. She was constantly drawing the interesting and beautiful things she saw. Through her school years she was always known as the most artistic in class, illustrating school newspapers and theater programs. After high school she moved on to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she was dismayed there was not a degree course in “making things beautiful.” Many changes of major later however, she decided on commercial art and design as her major.
From her earliest days as an aspiring art director at Ads Inc. and Eichenbaum & Associates to her time at Wisconsin’s most prestigious ad shops, Frankenberry, Laughlin & Constable, and Cramer-Krasselt, everywhere she went, national and international awards followed. Over her career, she won more than 150 in all, easily making her the most honored female art director of her time. From Clios, D&AD, and CA to Graphis, One Show Pencils and National Addy’s, not only did she set the bar for advertising design in the eighties, but she broke the glass ceiling for the women in Wisconsin advertising who followed her.
This grand career ultimately took her to New York City where she specialized in branding and package design for major national brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Victoria’s Secret, Coach, Este Lauder, Revlon, Banana Republic, and many more. Lucky for us, she found her way back to Milwaukee in 2001.
Of course, just as brand is beyond a logo, she too created a spherical life; musician in the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, performer in the art troupe Pioneers of Modern Typography, dancer with the Bulgarian Dancers. And she continued to support the arts and artists throughout her time here.
The dignity Frank brought to the craft of art direction intoxicated and lifted the creative bar for other art directors, writers and clients nationwide. Her time on earth was almost entirely devoted to finding beauty and making beauty.
Frances “Frank” Ullenberg passed in August of 2019. But her work, and her influence, will live forever.