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.


Client site launch:


Screenshot of TheAtriumOnline.comSome years back, we designed a site for The Atrium, a unique wedding and banquet center in Butler, PA. That site served them well for a few years. Last year they decided they wanted to make greater use of the web in their marketing — blogs, more photo galleries, and so on.

We worked with them to design a new site that uses photos throughout, to give a terrific visual impression of what it’s like to attend a celebration at The Atrium. The new design allows for larger images, and includes several photo galleries of weddings, social events, and business events.

The design itself is simple and elegant, so the photos have great “pop.” And the blog is easy to update, so the site can always have fresh and fun content.

Client site launch: The Foxburg Inn


Screenshot of the Foxburg Inn websiteThe Foxburg Inn is a lovely and comfortable hotel in Foxburg, PA, near the junction of Butler, Armstrong, and Clarion Counties. It’s perched on the Allegheny River; the views from the river rooms and the outdoor deck are beautiful.

We were invited to redo the inn’s website, to make it easy for staff to manage and more useful to guests. We wanted to include lots of pictures of the inn and its amenities, as well as the surrounding environs and quaint Foxburg.

Foxburg and the inn are charming and quirky, and innkeeper Mike Vereb asked us to try to convey the aspect of serendipity through the site. In addition to creating the tagline “Where charm and chance meet,” we sought out a series of quotations about nature, relaxation, and luck, and set these up to appear in random on each page.

We worked with Mike to list the site on a range of websites, including travel sites and directories. Within a day of the site launch, they were already receiving traffic and phone calls.

Shortly we’ll be adding online reservations to the site as well.

Client site launch: Hagan Business Machines of Butler


Hagan Business Machines of Butler website screenshotThe business equipment experts of Hagan Business Machines of Butler offer excellent service and work hard to keep their clients satisfied. They’re friendly and professional, and they needed their website to convey that image.

We worked with Rick and Rose McDeavitt, the owners of Hagan of Butler, to create a site design that would appropriately represent the company’s style.

To showcase their expertise, and to provide a convenient resource for clients, we included a Tips section. Rick will use this to address frequently asked questions and to further build the firm’s reputation.

The Featured Equipment section includes a select group of copiers, faxes, and other office equipment, chosen by Rick from among the hundreds of solutions he can sell and service. These pieces are the ones he knows his clientele are most likely to need. Highlighting only the key solutions reduces confusion for site visitors.

The ultimate guide to bad web design


Funny and painfully true: twenty-eight tips for “How to Make the Worst Website

Creating a terrible website seems to be a common goal on the
internet. I’ve seen it accomplished many times, so I thought I’d make
it easier for everyone and post the ultimate guide.

From the time a visitor enters your site to the time they exit,
there are plenty of effective techniques to annoy them. So in this
article, I will identify 28 points to remember during a website
development and how to execute them properly. Feel free to bookmark
this and use it as a reference when you’re in the mood to frustrate

I can add a few tips:

29. Don’t provide any way for site visitors to contact you. Why should you bog yourself down with what they think?

30. List every page in the main menu. Long menus are exciting and give the site visitor many options — probably too many options to choose from. Give them the challenge of searching through everything you could think of! It’s like a word search puzzle on-screen.

(Link thanks to Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals.)

Client site launch: Jonlor Developments


Home page of Jonlor Developments websiteJonlor Developments is a custom builder and architectural firm based in the Pittsburgh area. The president, John Rizzi, wanted a website that would showcase the beautiful homes they’ve built through a photo gallery.

John had a clear idea of how the homepage of the site should look: a full-page photo of a Jonlor home that’s styled like a French chalet, with brief text overlaying it.

We were able to design the page so that the text all remains available to search engines, and to create a layout and look for the rest of the site that shows the gallery in its best light.

Client site launch: Christy Rippel


Screenshot of

Last week we launched the website of Christy Rippel, a talented copywriter and PR specialist.

This was a fun site to build — and not only because Christy is a fun person to work with. The visual look was intended to reflect Christy’s friendly personality, but still convey her professionalism. She suggested a slightly retro look, inspired by 70s color schemes. The design we created contrasts vibrant colors against a warm, dark background. (We call the look “Chocolate Candy.”)

The portfolio and collection of published work are the showpieces of the site. And Christy will use the blog to keep the site fresh and further convey her personal and business styles to prospective clients and editors.

DevHouse Pittsburgh #4 — BBQ House Party


DevHouse Pittsburgh is "the premier Pittsburgh-area hackathon event that combines serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere."

We’re about rapid development, ad-hoc collaboration, and cross pollination. Whether you’re a l33t hax0r, hardcore coder, or passionate designer, if you enjoy software and technology development, DevHouse Pittsburgh is for you.

DevHouse is not a marketing event. It’s a non-exclusive event intended for passionate and creative technical and design people that want to have some fun, learn new things, and meet new people.

When: Saturday, June 14, 2008, 2pm – 8pm

Where: Karl Schieneman’s house, 4685 Middle Road, Allison Park, PA 15101

Details of the BBQ are not yet resolved — one scenario is that each person might bring their own grillables, with beverages, sides, and fixings provided. Check the DevHouse Pittsburgh website for updated information, and to RSVP so they have a good guess at a headcount.

It’s sure to be an interesting and fun event. I hope to see you there!

Refresh Pittsburgh meeting


The next meeting of Refresh Pittsburgh will at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, April 1 at the Creative Treehouse in Bellevue.

Refresh Pittsburgh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of Internet developers in the Pittsburgh area.

To start the evening, Pat Collins will present “CakePHP: Rapid application development with PHP”.

Why learn a new programming language when you can use your existing PHP skills to become a better coder and increase your productivity? Let Pat show you how to build a blog application in no time, and how you can help!

Then, Val Head will be presenting “A, B, C, D-esign!”

Val’s presentation will be a discussion of the basic building blocks of design as they apply to designing fo the web. She’ll show examples of concepts like colour, typography and hierarchy and talk about how these fit in to a web page design.

As usual, if you would like to show off a recent project or pose a few questions to our group, please let us know and we’ll fit you in.

We’ll make sure to provide a good supply of coffee and cookies and other sweets to get you through the night.

Please RSVP to let us know if you will be joining us. We need to make sure we have enough seats and most importantly, coffee and cookies! And by all means, please forward this invitation to anyone you like.