Pinch makes things to help our clients solve business problems. We develop brands, design logos, brochures, collateral systems, books, Web sites, exhibits – all kinds of printed & digital ephemera, for all kinds of clients. In lieu of a picture of our handsome mugs (which we don't have anyway), here are a thousand words about how we do it.

Pinch is a strategic design company based in Portland, Oregon. We help our clients figure out what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it.

Some might tart this description up with terms like brand development, brand stewardship, and so on. Designers like to talk about design as if they actually read the Harvard Business Review for the articles.

But in truth there is no codified process. Every problem is different; every solution is different. We are able to relate and react to our clients' business problems because we are businesspeople ourselves, and we've been at it for twenty years now. In practice, it means listening carefully, thinking, talking, and then doing. And then doing it all over again. It involves common sense, good taste and a little luck. It also involves real relationships between humans and all that entails: trust, confidence, honesty and open communication.

That is why it's going to be hard to get a real sense of what it's like to work with us from a web site, even one as comparatively long-winded as this one. If you're really interested in knowing more about Pinch, we encourage you to ring us up and come over for a drink.

In the meantime, here's a short bit on our guiding principles.


First, we work in service to language. We know how to spell, punctuate, and where to hyphenate a word, all without asking a computer. We like to read: left to right, preferably, and without undue strain. We love plain speech. We eschew buzzwords and marketing-speak (in point of fact, we reject a common truncation – marcom – on grounds that has stopped carrying the meaning of its component words, marketing and communications: a subject for another sermon, perhaps).

The unifying element in our work is our belief in communicating clearly; never allowing style to obscure content (the message) or function (the user experience).

We seek out projects by which we can propagate our love of language and story.

We are generalists. We believe that design is a way to engage other aspects of life: architecture, politics, literature, economics, history, music, sport, food, and so on; and that all human activity is designed, either by action or by default.


Design, as we practice it, is a business activity, and what we do is meant for use. The proper function of our work is to help our clients communicate efficiently and persuasively; and, in so doing, help them make more money. We may well end up, at the end of a project, with something beautiful, but that beauty is a function of how well we understood the client's problem.

We mention this because it is in our interest to keep each engagement as transparent and collaborative as possible for our clients. We count on having the client as an active member of our group throughout the design process; our work will only be as good as the flow of communication between us and the client.

We do have some good systems to take care of the nuts and bolts: careful project management, using a simple web-based collaboration tool that collects all correspondence and review documents in one place and maintains chain of custody; thorough and accurate estimates and schedules up front; and detailed timekeeping in twenty-minute increments throughout an engagement.


We like to make things as well as we possibly can. That means working at a level of attention that most folks—even our peers—would not notice. For example, in print work, that means we care about widows, orphans, good line breaks, and proper copy editing. (We use the Chicago Manual of Style, by the way, early and often.) We comb through copy line-by-line, correcting letterfitting, hanging punctuation, weeding out anything that might divert a reader from reading.

On the Web, it means embracing W3C standards. Some context: designers with a strong print background typically bristle against the limitations imposed by designing for the Web, retreating into the controllable pleasures offered by plugin-dependent development environments like Flash, which allows them to work as if the Web were an animated print piece.

We like good Flash work, and will use it as appropriate. But we love that the Web is open to all sorts of user agents, which include but are not limited to Web browsers. A page reader, like those used by the blind, won't make too much of an all-Flash site, but if a site is designed to be rendered in semantically-correct HTML, the user won't miss anything. Being limited to a handful of typefaces is a small price to pay for that kind of accessibility.

We build our Web projects using semantically-correct, standards-compliant XHTML, rendered using CSS. We prefer open-source database environments for the back end whenever we can. This isn't the easiest way to go about it. But we believe it's the best way.


We are quite aware that we are in the ephemera business. Much of what we make, though meant to be useful, is not meant to last. We use the lowest-impact materials and methods we can (we use only FSC-certified papers, for example, in our print work) and encourage our production partners to do the same: in 2007, we convinced our friends at Dynagraphics and AdPrint here in Portland to pursue and win FSC certification.

We purchase carbon offsets and green power credits to mitigate our own consumption and that incurred in the production of our projects.

Recently, we moved our offices to Pinch House—an in-process case study for green remodeling located close to our homes—to better blend our work and family obligations, reduce the amount of travel to and from the office, and to help us understand firsthand the issues and challenges faced by our clients in the sustainable building industry.

We seek sustainability in our cultural environment by finding, preserving and furthering knowledge that might otherwise be cast aside by the industry's thirst for novelty—techniques of printing, bookbinding, typography, and so on—learning these techniques ourselves and cultivating personal and professional relationships with their practitioners, and reaching out to elders in the design and advertising community, and, for that matter, our peers: we figure that continuity and community are more important than competition. There's enough work for everybody.