Making our Mark in Downtown Pittsburgh

Making our Mark in Downtown Pittsburgh

Branding Design Events Non-Profit Organizations

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s annual meeting at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Throughout the evening, I loved seeing all the great work the PDP presented to board members, City and County officials, and to Downtown Pittsburgh stakeholders. I’m very much inspired by the great work the PDP does for Downtown Pittsburgh, improving the city we live and work in.

Even better, we get to work with them on many projects. And I also loved seeing all the pieces of design work that the Shift team did for the PDP in the last year. Here are some highlights:


Branding the debut of Picklesburgh – a weekend-long festival celebrating pickles and pickling, which took place on a bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh. The challenge was to develop a brand identity for a new event that had previously had no visibility in the marketplace. Our other challenge was to manage the expectations of the client who needed a compelling brand to find support, raise money and execute an event of that size and magnitude.

It was difficult to tell the whole story of the event with one logo, so we presented a brand that is expansive with different pieces, elements and colors that represent “pickling.” When one thinks of “pickling” they usually think of pickles. But, what the PDP challenged us to do was to look at the vast array of all things pickled, including Asian fare and Eastern European food.

We also needed to illustrate a 30-foot pickle balloon that would be installed over the Rachel Carson Bridge. Aside from the design work, we also helped with fundraising development and built the event website.

The result is a fun brand that ended up gaining a lot of exposure, with lots of local press plus national attention on Good Morning America and The Today Show




The PDP approached us with a concept for a new street activation program funded by BNY Mellon. They came to us with a blank slate and allowed us the freedom to be our creative selves to name and brand the intuitive. The idea was that these funded projects would test out their ideas in a downtown space, completing two goals: one, to fund an innovative project, and two, to activate an unlikely downtown space to attract people to.

The name we came up with was Betaburgh, Come Test With Us. The brand followed similar lines of thinking. The logo depicts beta as a button, which will be pushed to “activate” downtown. The gradient color chosen has an electric and energizing tone, to represent the creative ideas that ensue. 



Clean Team Trash Can Re-design

The PDP Clean Team made a transition in 2015 and needed a new look for the trash cans they wheel around downtown. Not only does the Clean Team keep the city clean, they also help downtown visitors navigate around, by answering questions and offering help. The idea was to depict their efforts through a new trash can design.

This was an interesting request, to design a 3D object with extra meaning, a trash can, that would be prominently displayed around the streets of Pittsburgh. We pitched a few different ideas, and the one that resonated the most was simply ‘Here to Help,’ accompanied by custom iconographic pattern.

I brainstormed all the different things downtown offers and came up with icons to match them. I chose a muted yellow tone that made the design work seamlessly with the yellow trash cans. How could you miss these bright trashcans rolling around the streets? That is the point.

Yellow Artwork 2-edit    Trash Can on Street


Shop & Dine Guide

This project began during the 2015 holiday season, when the PDP came to us for a unique piece to hand out to guests during Light Up Night and Holiday Market events. The piece was to encourage people to shop downtown for the holidays and to highlight retail centers as well as the Peoples Gas Holiday Market™.

We delivered a piece with a special fold and iconic look. Twenty thousand of these guides were handed out over the holiday season. This piece such a success that the PDP asked us to revise it to use year round, and to also include restaurants.

It was a challenge to fit all 300+ retailers and restaurants on a handheld map. Through many versions, we arrived at a color-coded system that provides the viewer with easy navigation, breaking up downtown into districts and corridors. The cover art was revised to incorporate the colors used throughout and iconically show shopping and dining, making this a full guide for Downtown Pittsburgh. Another 20,000 were printed, and the new Shop and Dine guide made its debut during the PDP Annual Meeting. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.10.22 AM

Annual Report & Meeting Collateral

In January we took on the job of creating the PDP’s 2015 Annual Report. We turned their successes and goals into a visually pleasing print piece. We designed a logo, colors, and grid, and matched them with a clean font, and applied it all throughout the 24-page report. I adjusted the size a bit from previous years’ reports, from a typical 8.5 x 11 to a more hand-able 7.5 x 10.5 size, with an additional flap on the front cover to highlight quick facts from 2015. Overall, the design of this year’s report aligns with the innovation the PDP has led in 2015. 

We had our hands full designing not only the annual report, but also all the collateral for the Annual Meeting itself, the invitations, program, and event signage. 

PDP AR Blog image

Throughout the last year it’s been great to help expand the PDP’s brand through these design pieces. We are looking forward to future collaborations, and most importantly Picklesburgh 2016.


Finding Your Voice: A Social Media Content Development Workshop

Finding Your Voice: A Social Media Content Development Workshop


Say anything

Are you a registered Pittsburgh nonprofit that wants to connect your mission with your audience through social media?  Do you want to engage on Twitter or Facebook, but you’re not quite sure what to say?

Join Big Big Design’s own Cynthia Closkey for a content development workshop hosted by HandsOn Tech Pittsburgh and Google Pittsburgh.  HandsOn Tech, part of PittsburghCares, was created to help Pittsburgh nonprofits use technology effectively and efficiently so they can focus and succeed in their missions.

Registered nonprofits can sign up for this April 17th event at Bakery Square.  Hope to see you there!

Webinar: Blogging for Business – April 27


With so many kind of social media and online networks, is good ol’ blogging still useful for business? Yes! This webinar, intended for independent professionals and business owners, will cover the basics of why and how to create a blog for business, and then how to go beyond the basics to make something amazing. Why blog, how to start, where to find content, how to connect it with other marketing and business processes, and where to find help (especially free resources).

Presenter: Cynthia Closkey, President of Big Big Design

Register for this free webinar

Blogging for Business
Wednesday April 27
11:00am EDT
Register now >>

A few notes about this webinar: It will be a 45 minute seminar, including time for questions. I’ll be covering some of the same information from my session of the same name at Pittsburgh PodCamp 5, but updated for 2011.

How will this webinar compare with the course I’m teaching in May at CCAC, “Nonprofit Blogging for Profit“? Well, the CCAC course will be longer — three hours long — and will include hands-on application of some of the topics covered. And it will focus on special needs of nonprofits.

Upcoming: “Nonprofit Blogging for Profit”


I’m teaching another course in the CCAC Nonprofit Academy, this one titled “Nonprofit Blogging for Profit.”

In this workshop, we’ll discuss the ways that blogging can benefit your organization — it’s a fantastic complement to your existing outreach and community-building efforts. I’ll show you how to go about planning a blog and give you a range of options for setting one up.

It’s a three hour workshop, and we’ll be as hands-on as possible. By the end of the session, you’ll have a clear plan for how to get started and how to measure success to bring the rest of your organization on-board.

(If you attended my “Blogging for Business” session at PodCamp Pittsburgh 5, you’ll find that this workshop is updated and expanded from that, and has a close focus on nonprofits. That session received very positive feedback, so we can build on its success!)

When: Wednesday, May 25, 6-9pm
Where: CCAC Allegheny Campus
Fee: $75
Course section: XGM-719-58701

To register, sign up at the CCAC website.

Upcoming: “Creating a Website for Your Nonprofit”


I’ll be teaching a few courses in the CCAC’s Nonprofit Academy program this Spring. The first will be “Creating a Website for Your Nonprofit.”

This 3-hour course is designed to bring the Nonprofit organization into the world of technology by creating or updating an existing website for the organization. Student will learn various options in creating a website – the pros and cons of an in-house set up or contracting someone to create and run the site depending on budget..

This is an introductory level course for someone who is starting a website for a nonprofit organization, or perhaps taking over the role of managing a website for the first time. (Much of the information would be useful to someone in business as well.)

It’s a three hour workshop, and we’ll be as hands-on as possible. The goal will be to give you an understanding of what steps and resources are needed to create and maintain a website. By the end of the session, you’ll know what your next steps should be and how to get started.

When: Wednesday, April 6, 6-9pm
Where: CCAC Allegheny Campus
Fee: $75
Course section: XGM-716-58701

To register, sign up at the CCAC website.

Recommended: Pittsburgh SEO Workshop


Our friends at Lunametrics are offering a one-day SEO workshop this week, and there’s still time to sign up.

Want your site to show up at the top of Google but don’t want to spend a fortune to get it done? Here’s something most SEO consultation companies won’t tell you: You can do it yourself.

The workshop will be on June 23 from 8am to 5:30pm, at Left Field Meeting Space in Pittsburgh (across the street from PNC Park).

Find out more about the SEO workshop and register today.

Registration Open for August 6th Workshop


Are your web-savvy employees wondering when you are going to “get it” and start harnessing social networking?

We are offering a workshop that helps busy executives to understand Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the impact any online conversations can have on every facet of their business. We would love to introduce you to these new tools, provide a live demonstration, and have you participate in the discussion with like-minded executives and administrators.

Social Media — What Every Executive Needs to Know
(And what your employees already know!)

Register Now

Date: Thursday, August 06, 2009 at 8:30 AM (ET) to 11:00 AM
Location: Big Big Design, 129 Pillow Street, Suite 2, Butler, PA 16001
We encourage you to catch up with this technology as early as possible, as it is growing at an astonishing rate.

PodCamp Pittsburgh 3


It’s back! Pittsburgh’s social media conference returns for the third year running, with great sessions, awesome networking opportunities, and unexpected unexpectedness.

PodCamp Pittsburgh 3 will take place on October 18 and 19, 2008, with a meet-and-greet the evening of October 17.

WHEN: October 18 and 19, 9am to 4pm each day

WHERE: Art Institute of Pittsburgh, 420 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (map/directions)

COST: free!

Register today.

See the PodCamp Pittsburgh 3 schedule. Add a session you’d like to give, or request one you’d like to attend.

Would you like to sponsor PodCamp Pittsburgh 3? Find out how.

In addition to the two days of conference, there will be a meet-n-greet reception the night before, 6 to 9pm at AlphaLab on Pittsburgh South Side. Details for the reception here.

AMA Pittsburgh Marketing Mixer at Six Penn Kitchen


Meet local marketers and enjoy the downtown scene.

When: Thursday, June 12, from 5:30 to 7:30p
Where: Six Penn Kitchen, 146 Sixth Street, Pittsburgh
Who: Anyone, plus members of the American Marketing Association’s Pittsburgh chapter
How much: $20 for food, two drinks, and unlimited mingling

Enhanced mingling is courtesy of The Famous Grouse, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, whose reps will be on hand with samples of their exceptional single-malt whiskeys.

To find out more and register online, see the event page.

These events were great fun last summer, with a lot of marketing and general socializing. I have to miss this June mixer, but I hope you will check it out. And I look forward to the other mixers later this summer.