Carnegie could use signs for the times with the help of a local business

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Ceramic coasters of past projects greet visitors to KMA Design in Carnegie.

The clients depicted with pictures on these coasters — Gateway Center, PNC Park, the University of Pittsburgh, the Palm Beach County Courthouse and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs — look impressive.

But they barely scratch the surface for the sign-design company, which also completed projects at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Walt Disney World and Everglades National Park in Florida, among hundreds of other local and national clients.

“We've been very lucky,” said Barbara Martin, founder and chief executive officer at the company, which moved to Carnegie in September after 16 years in Canonsburg. “I've worked with Michael Eisner at Disney, and we've worked at (the) Tampa Bay Lightning's arena — clients that people know or have seen.

“It's nice to be able to have something tangible that you designed that most of the masses have seen.”

Martin recently won a Diamond Award as one of the top 15 CEOs in Pittsburgh and also was recognized with a 2013 BusinessWomen First Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times.

At any given time, the 11-employee design company boasts dozens of clients. Martin said her books include more than 50.

KMA doesn't construct any of the signs for its clients, but the company does all of the steps leading up to construction.

The company also oversees bidding and construction administration. The entire process can take anywhere from six months to a few years, Martin said.

“It's a lot of detail,” Martin said. “Even though it's design, we have to use both sides of our brain here because you can't make mistakes. Otherwise, it gets immortalized incorrectly.”

Each project comes with a chance for creativity.

At Consol Energy Center, KMA used elements of steel, ice and hockey skates when making the signs. The company also designed a Penguins logo sign over the team's locker room.

Design director Michael Martin — Barbara Martin's son — said his favorite project was the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which included a 166-foot-long “Hall of Fame” wall with large photos of former star athletes.

“There are a lot of graphic elements to it,” he said.

A close-to-home entity — Carnegie itself — soon might become a KMA client. Borough officials and the Carnegie Community Development Corp. formed a signage committee and are looking into the possibility of upgrading the welcoming and wayfinding signs in the borough.

Council President Rick D'Loss said visitors to the borough often don't know how to find the business district or the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.

“A lot of people, when they come into town, they think Mansfield Boulevard is our main street,” D'Loss said. “They get off the Parkway or they get off (Interstate) 79, and they don't realize they're missing all of Main Street.”

KMA has designed signs for towns throughout the country and specializes in wayfinding.

Three Carnegie Mellon University students are conducting a study of the town's borough's through the Allegheny Together program and will make recommendations in a report due at the end of April.

From there, the committee will decide whether to pursue replacing the signs throughout Carnegie.

For her part, Barbara Martin said she thought Mansfield Boulevard was the main road on her first visit to Carnegie. She is open to designing the signs if the contract comes about.

“That was one of the first things I noticed when we came here,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, they need some signs.'”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527.

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