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40 Stories: Joe Zeff of Joe Zeff Design

In 2021, interactive storyteller and marketing master Joe Zeff left NYC and arrived in Pittsburgh with a bang! During what he calls “The Pittsburgh Test,” Zeff decided to return to his hometown and determine if it was the right place for him. His test was a smashing success, and now his face and storytelling talents through Joe Zeff Design can be seen everywhere throughout the region!

The Tech Council’s Jonathan Kersting recently spoke with Zeff about his experiences as a member, his work in augmented reality and where he sees the future of Pittsburgh:

Joe ZeffJK: Tell me all about Joe Zeff Design and what you do!

ZEFF: We help companies tell better stories and we do it in a lot of different ways. Some of it is done with digital and traditional media. Some of it is next-generation—we're doing a lot with augmented reality and using new technology to help people tell their stories. I feel like I was a little ahead of the curve on this one, and I think that's paying off for not only my business, but for Pittsburgh.

JK: Let’s talk more about augmented reality –you’re currently doing some cool stuff with great companies like Astrobotic and the Moonshot Museum.

ZEFF: At the Moonshot Museum, you can see an augmented reality model of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander. Today, you could visit the museum and see Peregrine in Astrobotic’s cleanroom. But when Peregrine goes to the Moon, it’s not leaving a trail. It’s not leaving anything there to help people understand what was built right here in Pittsburgh.

JK: You see a bright future for Pittsburgh. What are your thoughts on where Pittsburgh could be in the coming years?

ZEFF: There's just such amazing things starting to happen here. What's happening with space technology is unbelievable. Robotics is an industry that has continued to grow here and flourish.

I think that 5-10 years from now, if I do my job right and if others do their job right, when the world thinks of Pittsburgh, they’ll think of innovation. Right now, when people think of Pittsburgh, they think of the Steelers, Primanti’s sandwiches, maybe of one company versus another. There's an opportunity for people to think, “Oh, that's the place where innovation happens. That's the place where there's companies like Krystal Biotech, like Astrobotic, like Duolingo.” Today, these companies are all parts of separate conversations. I think there's one conversation to be had about what an amazing place for innovation Pittsburgh is. And I think there needs to be a more concerted effort to make that story resonate outside of the area.

JK: Why did you join the Pittsburgh Tech Council?

ZEFF: Because I learned about companies that I knew nothing about! Even when I walked in the [Tech Council office] door today, you showed me a piece of technology in your lobby that I had no idea existed. One of Pittsburgh’s challenges is that there's so much happening here, but there's no single place where you can just immerse yourself in it. The Pittsburgh Tech Council is the closest thing to it. I love it.

When I come to your events, I meet individuals who inspire me. I learn about companies that are doing amazing things. It gives me enthusiasm about Pittsburgh. It’s what makes me wake up in the morning and think, “How can I help other people see what's happening?”

Connect with Joe Zeff Design

Powered by DQE CommunicationsFaros Properties|Nova Place and UPMC Health Plan, 40 Stories is a special series celebrating the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s 40th anniversary through the diverse stories of our members, old and new.