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Designing for Impact: Pixel Parlor shows how service businesses can integrate sustainable values
Business

Designing for Impact: Pixel Parlor shows how service businesses can integrate sustainable values

Meet the B Corp-certified studio that’s reshaping branding and website design with an eco-conscious approach

Jenn Richey Nicholas admits she struggled for a long time to find a proper work-life balance during her long career in design – a field she describes where people sometimes have to sell their souls to the devil to make ends meet.

But she believes she’s done that and more as CEO at Pixel Parlor, a Philadelphia-based studio she launched in 2011 with her husband Andrew. Pixel Parlor has assisted organizations in various sectors with their marketing strategies, including branding and website design. The studio has also done social media design and graphics for TV and streaming services.

“The most interesting service that we provide for our clients is a full service – from brand strategy and identity development to website UX design, content creation, and building out a website,” Richey Nicholas said.

Richey Nicholas, who had worked for ten years in design before starting Pixel Parlor, said she wanted to run a studio that’s sustainable, socially responsible, and profitable – in addition to enjoying a life she felt like she and her husband didn’t have in New York, their home before moving to Philadelphia.

Jenn Richey Nicholas Pixel Parlor Philadelphia
Jenn Richey Nicholas

Sustainability is a key tenet of Pixel Parlor, which tries to work with similarly mission-aligned companies. Pixel Parlor has been B Corp-certified for ten years, a designation awarded to businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance and public transparency. Richey Nicholas says the studio runs the clients they select and thier approach to branding and design through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“We also ensure that we select and work with the most qualified and sustainable vendors for the materials we source,” said Richey Nicholas.

Richey Nicholas says Pixel Parlor’s clients have increasingly understood the importance of sustainability in recent years. She believes that more organizations are eager to work with the studio because of its B Corp certification and its commitment to being green.

The studio creates all its printed materials locally and uses 100% post-consumer waste paper. In addition, Pixel Parlor works with a sustainability consultant and performs sustainability training for its staff. 

“I think (prior) to the pandemic, people thought it was cute but didn’t see the importance,” Richey Nicholas said. “And now, I strongly feel like people are seeking us out specifically because we are B Corp-certified and women-owned – focused on sustainability and trying to do our part.”

Fishtown

One sector of clients are Philadelphia neighborhood groups. The studio redesigned the website of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, and since then, it’s also worked with organizations based in Manayunk and Mount Airy.

Richey Nicholas acknowledges that neighborhood branding is a long process that includes working to learn about an area’s history and the difficulties it’s faced. So what other challenges is Pixel Parlor still facing in its efforts to serve groups in the Philadelphia region?

Artic Splash

Richey Nicholas was definitive in her response. “The pandemic. The pandemic. And the fallout from the pandemic,” she said. “2023 has been the hardest year of the entirety of the studio. Many of my fellow sustainable businesses are having a hard year this year. I think there was hope that we got through the pandemic, and then 2023 would be like, ‘We did it!’ We’re going to cruise through this. It will be easy sailing, and it has not been that.” 

One hurdle for businesses is understanding why branding is so important, which Richey strives to educate about.

“We need to compel our clients to understand the importance of brand strategy and how it creates the foundation of their business and communications,” she said.

Businesses frequently think they just need a logo, but Richey wants businesses to understand the core of their brand personality.

“A logo isn’t a brand. It’s like having a body without a soul,” said Richey Nicholas. 

Photos & images courtesy of Pixel Parlor


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Rashaad Jorden grew up in the Philadelphia area — the New Jersey suburbs, to be exact — but has taught English in Japan and France in addition to getting a Master's degree from Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. He also has run several road races in Philadelphia, completing the Broad Street Run numerous times. View all posts by Rashaad Jorden
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