Business Spotlight

Top Shelf Design

Graphic and Web Design Agency is Creative, Accessible and Customer-Focused 

A year ago, when Top Shelf Design owners Brendan and Kathryn Kiel moved their small web and graphic design agency to Rosslyn from another spot in the D.C. area, they were motivated, in part, by cost.

“From a small business standpoint, coming to Rosslyn saved us a lot of money, so we could invest in hiring more employees,” says Kathryn Kiel. These have included a director of business development and a project manager who liaises with clients so graphic and web designers can focus on their creative work.

“It’s our creative process that sets us apart,” Kathryn Kiel adds. “We do collaborative design and brainstorming for every client. This enables us to give them several concepts to choose from and takes the pressure off any one designer to sit alone in a room and create.”

“I think clients appreciate the steps we take to ensure a quality product,” says Project Manager Cassie Stewart.

A variety of organizations have hired Top Shelf Design for web and graphic design projects, and they keep coming back for more. Referrals and repeat business are high. Among these are University of Maryland, which recently chose them to create a website for a new center for academic innovation, and Cotton Incorporated, based in Cary, N.C., which hired them to develop a display for their world headquarters. Smaller nonprofits and businesses count on them, too, including the East-West Center in Washington, the Eye Bank Association of America and Wedgwood Circle.

We’re responsive. Plus, our prices are still within reach for smaller companies,” says Brendan Kiel. “We like having that smaller flavor that makes us accessible. You can call us on the phone and we’ll actually answer. Our clients can work directly with the designers and developers on their projects.”

During a short interview at their Rosslyn headquarters that included the Kiels and more than half the team, it was easy to imagine this group being abuzz with ideas and collaboration. They seemed happy and at ease with each other.

Creative Director Gena Romano, who has been with the company for nine years, leads their creative process.

“I like being at an agency,” says Romano. “There’s diversity in the work. In the time I’ve been here, the company has grown and so has the scope of the projects.”

Other staff also seem pleased about the variety of clients they support, and about the opportunities to experiment. When it comes to web design, Top Shelf Design’s in-house developers say they enjoy the chance to employ cutting-edge technologies, such as new JavaScript frameworks, in their web designs. It’s a freedom they don’t think they’d have at a bigger company.

“It’s a blast to work here,” says developer Gregg Hurson, who’s been with Top Shelf Design for five years. “We push the envelope in terms of what we can deliver. When we started doing web design, it was just simple sites. Today, we’re developing full content management systems.”

Now marking Top Shelf Design’s tenth anniversary, the Kiels seem proud of the organization they’ve built.

“We have a passion for what we do,” says Brendan Kiel, “and we’ve built a team of really creative people who work well together.”

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Photo Captions: (TOP) The Top Shelf Design team. 
(RIGHT) Kathryn and Brendan Kiel, center, have built a small team of creative people who work well together.
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