Blast Off, BS! Partners Fehrenbach, Warneke detonate Rocket Science + Design agency with potent mix

From: Rocket Science + Design
Published: Tue Apr 20 2010

Four years after merging with a Dayton, Ohio based multi-discipline design firm, partners Greg Fehrenbach and Joel Warneke packed it up and headed back south.

After successfully launching in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood as Design Orange in 1999, the Cincinnati guy and Chicago native, respectively, had cast their lot in Dayton, merging in 2001 with an established pair of partners and taking on the name of the 15-year-old Dayton agency, Visual Marketing Associates, Inc. (VM+A).

Early on, the older pair and younger duo meshed well together, and much business was wooed and won.

Over the years, however, it became apparent that something just wasn’t quite right.

"We had gotten together with the long-term vision of we as younger partners taking over the business at a certain point in time, but our expectations were not satisfied," Fehrenbach said. "No animosity whatsoever, just a split, a different direction for them, and for us."


With a short drive down I-75 – and nothing but their futures, careers and young families at stake – their stake in VM+A was cashed out, and Rocket Science was created.

Since that moment in 2005, the company has been on a tear by mixing up a potent brew of creativity, top-notch design and refreshing straight talk.

Their golden child is great strategic design, delivered across a multitude of platforms including print, identity, packaging, environmental and advertising as well as online and motion graphics. By the time 2010 arrived, clients such as Christian Moerlein, Huffy, Igloo and others had propelled the firm to:

- Double revenues since the VM+A split;
- Triple its office space with a 2008 expansion/relocation from downtown Mason to Deerfield Township;
- Grow personnel by two-thirds, from nine people in 2005 to 15 today;
- Continue to execute par-excellence creative, as evidenced by three local Addy awards.

The partners originally met at Huffy Bicycle Co., their first client. Both designers by education and trade, Fehrenbach is a graduate from the University of Cincinnati’s College of DAAP, and was looking to probe the business end of the marketing industry.

Warneke, an Eastern Illinois product, was interested in leading the creative effort for his own company, and Design Orange was born.

The Fehrenbach/Warneke team has advanced eons past its Design Orange and VM+A days. And yet, the first question is always the same: what's with the name?


"My philosophy on design, and Greg’s philosophy on the business of design, has always been in sync: award-winning design, and marketing that design with a brand behind it, really isn’t that difficult when you break things down," Warneke said.

"People in big design and advertising firms like to talk to clients in words and language they don’t understand. They try to confuse them with rhetoric and babble. So that’s what we’re saying. It’s not Rocket Science. But we are."

"We understand design and branding demand commitment to clearly define and consistently communicate the correct message to the right audience at the right time," Fehrenbach said.

"If you spend the time and money to build your band – and are disciplined enough to maintain it – the investment will pay dividends forever."

The first iteration of their company, Design Orange, was a not-so-thinly-veiled slap at a former student.

In the midst of a design class at the University of Chicago, where Warneke was conducting market research, one of the respondents remarked that the color orange "seemed to be working too hard," Warneke mused. Then rolled his eyes.

"What’s he talking about? Colors don’t work too hard, or too easily. They don’t work. People do, and messaging does. If you don’t like the color, just say it, but don’t bore me with your advertising BS mumbo-jumbo," Warneke said.

Clients are taking notice of the Rocket Science approach: blunt, and practical, teamed with preeminent design.

"With O.T.R. Ale, I had to capture the attention of the craft beer drinker, and the imagination of Cincinnati," said Greg Hardman, president and CEO of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. "Rocket Science made my vision a reality."

"The staff and owners at Rocket Science work very hard to deliver meaningful and quantifiable results through high quality work that is always on-trend, on-time and on-budget," said Bill Smith, president and COO of Huffy Bicycle Co.


The Cincinnati Ballet shined at the Cincinnati AdClub Addy Awards, courtesy of its agency, Rocket Science + Design.

Rocket Science won a Silver Addy from the Cincinnati AdClub for great strategic design performed for the Cincinnati Ballet, while snagging two other awards for its own work itself. For its Rocket Science + Design-branded stationary package, the agency won a Gold Addy.

"Our designer, Katie Condit, and I enjoyed a great moment in Rocket Science history, as the room watched our somewhat irreverent video," said Warneke. "To the guys who couldn't stop laughing: thanks for your support. It was a satisfying moment to witness great strategic design earn recognition from the industry, especially for our friends at the Ballet."

Following the local version, Rocket Science won two more Addys at the District level, and the company is proceeding to competition at the National level, according to Liz Lindley, Director of New Business Development at Rocket Science + Design. The company was recently featured in the Cincinnati Business Courier.

For more information about Rocket Science + Design, please call (513) 398-1700, visit or send an e-mail to

For media inquiries, please contact Mr. Andy Hemmer, President of PR/Writing Services and TheWritingFiend@Large at (513) 604-5428 or
Company: Rocket Science + Design
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Contact Phone: (513) 604-5428

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