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On September 27th, nearly 50 members came together for the fall edition of AIGA’s Xposed Studio Tour. This bi-annual event permits you a peek behind the curtain at workplaces in the ‘Burgh. Companies of all kinds give us the grand tour and show off their brands behind the scenes. The Xposed Tour experience goes beyond the floor plan and gives you a solid idea of the work that’s done and the kinds of people that do it. In case you couldn’t join us this time around, here’s what you missed.
This event took us downtown into Pittsburgh’s golden triangle. Traditionally, we tour three locations while in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this plan was altered by a last-minute cancellation from one of the three scheduled studios. Emily Conti, Communications Co-Chair of AIGA Pittsburgh and organizer of the event, was unfazed. As an Xposed tour veteran, she knew that by the end of the night we’d be grateful for the extra time.
CGI, our first stop, readily made the most of the extra time. They prepped an interactive workshop for us on top of the usual tour and talk. Laurel Strongosky, Secretary and Membership Director of AIGA Pittsburgh, guided her group to their offices on William Penn Place. Walking through the main floor, it’s clear that this company sets the standard for polished and professional. We immediately realized that CGI is really huge: an IT Consultancy in 400 cities with 5,000 clients. Their top floor is ready at all times for those clients who come to meet in the sleek conference rooms and breakout areas.
As the tour continued, we were led down a set of stairs. The bright white lighting and pristine aesthetic start to fade out. Down the hall and around a corner lies the CGI Pittsburgh design studio. In this area we all felt a little more at home. The lights were softer, the windows open, and the desks personalized. It’s undeniably built for collaborating and problem-solving. Hearing from the design team that occupies the studio, we couldn’t help but notice the comradery between them and their shared passion for the work. We walked through a challenging client project, received an intro to psychology in design, and tested out their white board workshopping techniques. We left knowing that these design consultants are experts at communicating ideas: with or without an Expo marker.
Stop two on the Xposed Tour took us a few blocks over to Chemistry: an advertising agency with a broad range of capabilities. Digital, web, social, PR, branding, print, research, and strategy—just about everything you can imagine in the agency realm. Their space was open and colorful with award-winning work adorning nearly every wall. It was complete with a meeting space nicknamed the “Denny’s Booth” that had us craving a Grand Slam.
After exploring the office, Chemistry sat us around the kitchen table and got down to business. We heard experts from every department show off their big-name clients & favorite projects. But for us, the biggest takeaway was hearing about the work that didn’t go as planned. Chemistry wasn’t afraid to share the good with the bad: the creative that didn’t win awards, that got killed, or that they just weren’t crazy about. Sometimes traditional media like radio allowed for more creative freedom than newer digital tactics. Sometimes the reverse was true. Seeing this candid blend of work was invaluable, and certainly something that not all agencies are willing to advertise. We’re glad that they were.
After wrapping up at CGI and Chemistry, we regrouped at Genoa Pizza to meet and mingle. Many thanks to our contacts at Chemistry: Sarah Kennedy Senior Art Director, and CGI: Eddie Canaan Pittsburgh Metro Human Centered Design Lead, Scott Harrer Director US Human Centered Design Practice Lead, Jason Horne User Experience Designer & Strategist | AIGA Pittsburgh Vice President. We sincerely appreciate the time it took to organize and host us. Xposed Tours wouldn’t exist without people like you to open the doors. In other news, this event easily wins gold for Most Snacks at an AIGA Xposed Tour. Follow up in the spring for a taste of the next tour.