Pittsburgh is a city with a rich industrial heritage and an ever growing art and design community.To be a design firm in this region is to be constantly exposed to interesting and powerful imagery and objects.
As much as any city can be said to have its own design philosophy or aesthetic, Pittsburgh has centered on the utterly practical. This could be generously described as a “form-is-function” philosophy, and is hardly surprising given the city’s industrial past. Design and innovation were spurred by the need to solve a problem. By this standard, people moved to work with efficiency and economy, with little thought to the superfluous or unnecessary.
Was a roll of electrical tape cheaper for the Post Office than a tin letter?
That said, the art community in Pittsburgh has grown tremendously in recent years. Organizations like the Sprout Fund are working to fill the city with murals, and the Three Rivers Arts Festival recently celebrated its 50th year. Even the field of robotics –which seems to be the city’s bread and butter- had its time in the spot light last year. One would think that these more evolutionary and self-referencing endeavors would conflict with the underlying notion of practicality that is part of old Pittsburgh’s ethos. However, it seems that the old is embracing and even supporting the new, not only by providing an ample canvas for muralists, but also providing -with its own unique history and ethos- an environment where the new and innovative are accepted and welcomed, even if they’re not immediately understood.
Within this environment, design is thriving. Acting as a mediator between the old and the new, firms in Pittsburgh are constantly combining the ingenuity and know-how of the old industrial base with the new ideas and aspirations of the art community. It’s a wonderful mix which I hope continue to pay dividends well into the future.