Rich Kohnke


People say a lot of things about Rich Kohnke.

“He should have been a film director.” “That guy’s an asshole.” “All I wanted was type on a page, and he tells me, ‘There’s no such thing as type on a page.'” The first one was a director of a TV spot. The second, a fellow player in the AdWorkers softball league, who said it several years in a row. That last one was from a client with whom he won one of his many Best of Shows, who also became a lifelong friend.

There is no such thing as type on a page. There is no such thing as a quick little job that shouldn’t have the opportunity to win a One Show Pencil (yes, he’s got those too). Or a home run that didn’t really need to be hit in an undefeated season for Kohnke Hanneken.

All of it — the obsession with perfection, combined with a smile and a tease — made Rich, and the agencies that bore his name or gave him the CCO title, creative powerhouses. It gave the people in the agencies who worked side by side with Rich an opportunity to collaborate with someone who always pushed “do the right thing” for the work, even if it took all night. It made everyone’s book better. It made client outcomes better.

“I don’t hate you. I blame you.”  That was the wife of an award-winning art director.

AE’s learned he’d never let them down, even if it was the day before a pitch. The ideas were always strategic, beautifully presented, with insurance that the execution would be flawless.

If awards are a measure, he’s won nearly all of them, again and again. Best of Shows (lost count), national Addys, an Emmy for art direction, One Show Pencils, an Effie. Ad Age’s “Best B2B Ad of the Year.” Profiled in CA (Communication Arts). Frequently seen in Archive and Graphis.

People say quite a lot, people assumed a lot, but really – secret revealed – it truly was always about the work and people with whom he worked closely. Many of those relationships, like the client with the newfound respect for type, will last forever. Because if you ever worked with him, you know you’ll never work with anyone like him.

And then, that hair.  Respect.

Favorite Work, Favorite Clients 

  • Diamond Nexus
  • El Camino Hospital
  • Florsheim Shoes
  • Lung Cancer Alliance
  • Metavante
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Nurture by Steelcase
  • OU Medical Center
  • Park Bank
  • Potawatomi Casino
  • Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers
  • Toppers Pizza
  • TV24
  • YMCA of Greater Milwaukee
  • YMCA of Greater New York
  • Visit St. Pete/Clearwater
  • Wisconsin Department of Tourism