three sided creative thinking | conceived through measurement | completed in design

Trialogue Studio (formerly The Smooth Stone LLC) was created in 2004 by Michael A. Altman and Ruth Wieder as a boutique consultancy providing public and private sector clients with advice and counsel on how to develop sustainable place brands that can help build community and drive economic development. Now expanded to include designers Jessie Leiber and Megan Lavelle, the agency has developed a robust consulting practice that works at the intersection of community, commerce and culture and offers a range of related services that include:
  • Strategy Development
  • Marketing Communications Planning, Design and Execution
  • Web Site Development
  • Social Media Strategies and Execution
  • Community Visioning and Engagement strategies
  • Training and Development
  • Design and Facilitation of Meetings
    • Strategic Planning
    • Team Building & Development
    • Vision and Values
    • Executive Retreats
    • Board Retreats & Meetings
    • Issue Processing
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Action Planning
    • Senior Team Alignment & Development
    • Family Business Councils, Retreats & Succession Planning
    • Focus groups

All Projects/ Community/ Commerce/ Culture/


Washington, DC will host the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in July 2012. The conference is organized by the International AIDS Society in partnership with a number of international bodies and local partners.

Held every two years, the International AIDS conference attracts about 25,000 delegates from all over the world, and is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policymakers, people living with HIV and others committed to ending the epidemic. It is a unique opportunity for researchers from around the world to share the latest scientific advances in the field, learn from one another's expertise, and develop strategies for advancing all facets of our collective efforts to treat and prevent HIV.

In early 2011, Trialogue Studio was one of three firms asked to pitch for the assignment to design the visual identity for the conference. We were thrilled to be awarded the project and have recently completed the logo design. We were subsequently engaged to produce all of the environmental signage, press kit covers and stationary package in time for the opening press conference held on February 25th in Washington, DC. We also re-skinned the AIDS 2012 website and are now beginning work on a comprehensive set of brand guidelines.

principal strategist: michael a. altman
art director: ruth wieder
designers: megan lavelle, jessie leiber

Located 34 miles south of Montego Bay (and its urban hustle-and-bustle teeming with tourists and cruise ships) and just across the hilly center of Jamaica, you descend to the South Coast with dramatic vistas of sugar cane fields and sea. Here is the community of Bluefields, an environmentally-intact area virtually untouched by commercialism—a place rich in history having Jamaica's most protected anchorage and mountains descending to meet the sea at the 1/2 mile long Bluefields Beach.

For the last year, Michael Altman has been advising the owners of Bluefields Bay Villas and the local community in the areas of sustainable tourism development, capacity building, workforce development, strategic planning, product development and marketing. He assembled a team that successfully repositioned the five exclusive Jamaican seaside villas as the most natural, distinctive and highly personalized lodging experience on the island.

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder
designer: jessie leiber

The City of Calgary has lived through a number of boom/bust cycles. Today, the “boom” is definitely back, fueled by skyrocketing oil prices. But CalgaryÂ’s Economic Development team now faces different kinds of challenges: How do we manage growth? How do we attract more skilled labour? How can we diversify the economy as a buffer against the fickle commodities markets? How can we strengthen our sense of culture and community? Ultimately, the questions come down to the larger concern of what sort of city do we aspire to be? And how will we tell that story to the world in a credible, compelling way?

In 2008 as a contractor for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman led the team that worked with the City of Calgary to assess the relevance of its current brand positioning Heart of the New West and supporting visual identity that it adopted about eight years ago. After completing the audit, we recommended and were engaged to develop the new go forward positioning for the City of Calgary that recognizes that Calgary generates a one-of-a kind urban energy that fuels the creativity and entrepreneurism of its diverse people, communities and commerce; that the city’s bold, progressive vision powers a burgeoning cultural vitality that complements its spirited Western heritage and draws visitors from around the world; and that Calgary brings its commitment to sustainable commerce and communities to ife through the many ways it enables growing communities and organizations to adapt and thrive.

principal strategist: michael a. altman

The Capitol Riverfront is DC’s new neighborhood, known locally as the home of the city’s major league baseball stadium, Nationals Park. Centrally located between the U.S. Capitol Building, Anacostia River and Barracks Row Main Street, the Capitol Riverfront is a business center, urban neighborhood, retail and entertainment district and waterfront destination. ItÂ’s part of the largest waterfront revitalization currently underway in the US.

Michael Altman and Jeannette Hanna worked with the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID) to attract the region’s vanguard office tenants, residents and retailers to the area. Capitol Riverfront has 30+ LEED certified existing or planned buildings, four new parks and a 16-mile riverwalk trail to entice newcomers to what was once a forgotten slum. We developed a new positioning based on “leading from the Front”, a vibrant new identity to help express the postioning and a marketing blueprint that includes innovative ideas like locating a farmer’s market on a floating barge and creating a “Riverkeepers” volunteer youth corps. and more.

Is it working? Stakeholders are jazzed and subsequent to this assignment, we were engaged to re-design their web site that launched to great fanfare here.

brand strategy, marketing: michael altman, ruth wieder
graphic/web design: jessie leiber

In 2009, The Crocker Art Museum embarked on the most monumental endeavor in its 120-year history. An expansion project that not only tripled the size of the current facility but spanned all facets of the organization, from collection and endowment growth to enriching every aspect of the visitor experience. This bold plan puts the museum in an exciting position to reach out and grow its audience in a variety of ways.

As a sub-contractor to MET Strategies, LLC, Michael Altman collaborated with Beth Tuttle to help the museum to establish a clear point of difference and a meaningful brand proposition in order to increase its reputation as the leading arts institution in the Sacramento Valley, gain the notoriety it deserves and attract new audience segments as it should.

MET's broad scope took us right from orgnaizational alignment through brand positioning, identity, marketing communications, advertising, and web re-skin. Check out the new museum here.

principal/ project lead: beth tuttle
principal strategist: michael a. altman
creative director:
michael mansfield

In 2007 as a contractor for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman led the team that developed a sustainable brand and image strategy to support transformative positioning and long term economic development for Crystal City, Va. Mining both quantitative and qualitative research for insights, we developed a brand positioning, value proposition and an identity platform of visuals and messaging that support the Business Improvement District’s mandate and help to demonstrate Crystal City's transformation from a staid government office park into a progressive community with a distinctly different attitude that is home to a diverse mix of creative businesses, residential neighborhoods and restaurants.

Now, stakeholders and the public are feeling a growing sense of presence here and are beginning to see Crystal City in an entirely new light.

In 2009, Trialogue Studio was engaged to completely re-design the BID’s website. Check it out here.

principal strategist: michael a. altman
strategist/account lead: ruth wieder
2009 web redesign: jessie leiber

Introduced in June, 2008, connects people to the heart of the thriving arts and culture community in the Greater Washington, DC region including the District of Columbia; Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington and Fairfax Counties; and the City of Alexandria. This virtual arts marketplace provides comprehensive information and reliable ticket-purchase options for shows, performances, classes and exhibitions offered by more than 300 regional arts organizations and cultural institutions, making it the region's richest and most diverse collection of arts and culture activities. strives to be inclusive and includes big names and small groups alike, giving users access to all the hot hits and hidden jewels the DC region has to offer.

Michael Altman was a consultant/ advisor to the Cultural Alliance on formation, funding and marketing strategy for this important regional arts marketing initiative.

strategists/marketing consultants: michael a. altman, ruth wieder

Washington, DC has always suffered from a fractured image. “Washington” conjures the image of the federal government, the Mall and eighth-grade class trips. “D.C.,” the term locals use to identify the city, is associated with its neighborhoods, growing restaurant scene, international culture and open green spaces. Destination DC, the city’s official tourism marketing agency, wanted to let visitors in on the "D.C." part of the nation's capital that wasn't evoked in its former tagline, “The American Experience.” Destination DC wanted to break down perceptions of the District as impenetrable and unapproachable and cast it as a city with cultural flair.

In 2006/07 as a contractor for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman led the team that worked with Destination DC (representing a broad, highly diverse group of stakeholders from hoteliers and attractions to the Mayor's office and other federal agencies like the National Park Service), to build a distinctive sustainable brand strategy to guide the city's marketing and promotional efforts. The “powerful moments” positioning evolved from formal national and international surveys as well as an innovative community-engagement web site the team developed called, “Share Your DC.” The site generated thousands of DC “insider” tips for visitors that were incorporated into marketing communications.

Is it working? The client has recently completed a Return on Investment Study where they determined the following about the new positioning and accompanying advertising campaign:

  • Generated 79,000 incremental trips
  • In total, generated $53.4 million dollars inside DC
  • Generated $3.7 million in tax revenue to DC
  • 40:1 Spending ROI
  • 3:1 Tax ROI

principal strategist: michael. a. altman
strategist/account lead: ruth wieder

In 2006 Michael Altman served as a consultant to the Downtown BID as they sought to prepare a request for proposal to identify firms capable of taking the organization through a process to of developing a new place brand proposition that demonstrates how Downtown is the cultural and economic heart of DC, the region’s premier urban gathering place, and the center of America’s capital city.

consultant: michael a. altman

The Yards is Forest City's $1.7 billion redevelopment of the area known as Southeast Federal Center in the District of Columbia. It will ultimately include 5.5 million SF of new development/redevelopment including approximately 2,800 residential units (both rental and for sale), 1.8 million SF of office space, up to 400,000 SF of retail/dining space a public park, riverfront esplanade and trail that will connect with the Navy Yard’s riverfront walk to the east and a similar feature to the west of the site that will connect with the Ballpark District development.

The Yards project will blend adaptive reuse of several historically protected, former industrial buildings that were originally part of the neighboring Washington Navy Yard, as well as numerous sites of all-new construction. With more than 30 buildings planned overall, The Yards will ultimately generate millions of dollars annually from land that was previously not on the District’s tax rolls, over 3,000 new residents, sustainable design including the adaptive reuse of the historic buildings onsite and hundreds of construction and permanent jobs for DC residents. In addition, the project will provide LSDBE, job training and First Source hiring programs throughout its multi-phase development plan.

Forest City engaged Trialogue Studio to refresh The Yards identity, develop a website for the Yards Park and design environmental signage to celebrate and promote the openings of the Yards Park (Summer 2010), the Foundry Lofts (Summer 2011) and Boilermaker Shops (late 2011).

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder
designer: jessie leiber

Ivy City is a small and contained neighborhood: 7-10 city blocks: residential surrounded by light industry in Northeast Washington, D.C. area bordered by Mount Olivet Road NE, West Virginia NE and New York Avenue.  The industrial and residential sections of the neighborhood expanded and contracted with the rise and fall of the railroad industry.  This small residential neighborhood is surrounded by warehouses and a train storage/maintenance yard for Amtrak. Established in the mid 1880s, Ivy City was built in what were then the suburbs of Washington, DC for the workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O).  In 1878 Ivy City became a part of the District of Columbia.  For many years the neighborhood has been plagued by a loss of population, neglect and isolation.  But today due to its location and the surrounding existing and proposed development, the fate of the neighborhood is at a critical point. 

As a result of a neighborhood charrette in 2005 a vision plan for Ivy City was created which provided the foundation for the disposition process of a percentage of vacant housing in Ivy City through the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).  DHCD was awarded $2.8 million from the first round of HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and DHCD used that funding solely for what was deemed the Ivy City Special Demonstration Initiative. As a result, three (3) affordable housing developers (Habitat, Manna and Mi Casa) are developing a total of 53 units in Ivy City for redevelopment. 

DHCD and The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national nonprofit community development investor dedicated to helping to create healthy neighborhoods that are good places to live, work, raise children and conduct business engaged Trialogue Studio to help find a way to reposition this new upcoming community that has been plagued with challenges and come up with a community outreach/consultation strategy and activities to market and communicate its bright future. The positioning, visual identity and marketing strategy is complete and in the market.

Is it working? We are pleased to say that almost all of the 53 units are spoken for and with all of this development and incoming new residents, Ivy City is beginning to bloom again. Learn more at

UPDATE: DHCD subsequently received $9.6 million in the second round of NSP funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a portion of which will be invested in Ivy City with the balance being invested in Trinidad and Anacostia neighborhoods. Trialogue Studio is again on board to provide counsel and actionable, creative strategies to leverage this critical community investment.

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder, karen sibert
designer: megan lavelle

With $9.6 million in the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) are building on ongoing initiatives to develop a comprehensive strategy to address housing challenges in the Ivy City and Trinidad neighborhoods.

Through a market-driven, community-led approach, the Ivy City and Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative will examine how DHCD’s housing investment can be leveraged to further three primary goals:

  • Improved Access to Decent, Affordable Housing
  • Increased Commercial Development and Employment Opportunities; and
  • A Comprehensive Vision for Community Redevelopment.

Recommendations developed through this initiative will honor the District of Columbia’s stated vision for:

  • Green and Sustainable Development Practices;
  • Shared Social and Economic Prosperity;
  • Quality Environments and Access to Nature;
  • Distinctive Neighborhoods and Districts;
  • Multiple Transportation Options, including Transit; and
  • Walkable Communities

Trialogue Studio has been asked by DHCD to continue its work that it began in Ivy City under the first NSP grant and will join the NSP2 team as Community Visioning, Branding and Marketing experts. Our task is to synthesize and leverage all of the insight gained through the project to create and execute a targeted marketing campaign to attract potential homeowners and developers to the NSP-funded housing programs and as general branding materials for the neighborhoods. Creative is approved and Trialogue is submitting its final marketing recommendations in August 2011. More about the project at

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder
designer: megan lavelle

The Lower 8th Street SE Visioning Process Advisory Committee coordinated a vision process with property owners and other community stakeholders along the Lower 8th Street, SE corridor. With Michael Altman of Trialogue Studio engaged as facilitator, this proces was an attempt to gain consensus on a vision for the area and to address issues of height, density, mix of uses, parking and access, as well as what should be the character of a redesigned Virginia Avenue Park as an amenity or community benefit for the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood and Capitol Hill.

After a series of 10 public input meetings conducted between November 2009 and February 2010, it appears that consensus has been reached on a vision that could serve as the basis for asking the Office of Planning to develop a small area neighborhood plan or consider a Planned Unit Development (PUD) that could then be used as justification for any agreed upon zoning or density changes.

strategist/facilitator: michael a. altman

The DC Office of Planning, in partnership with the District Department of Transportation, is undertaking the Mount Vernon Square District Project. This project is designed to generate implementation-driven solutions for specific transportation, public realm and real estate challenges and opportunities in the blocks, streets, and reservations surrounding Mount Vernon Square.

In context of this work, Trialogue Studio together with its partner Jackson Brady Design Group was engaged by the Washington Convention & Sports Authority and Destination DC to conduct research and provide options and recommendations for the design and operation of a new Washington, DC Visitor Center to be located at the old Carnegie Library building at 801 K Street, NW at Mount Vernon Square. The first phase of this project is now complete and our findings and preliminary concept recommendations were submitted in late March 2010.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Mount Vernon Square District Project site here.

principal strategist: michael a. altman

As a contractor in 2008 for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman led the team that worked with Niagara Economic Development Corporation and Destination Niagara, with the support of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, on a major place-branding project designed to assess and improve the image and marketability of Ontario’s Niagara Region. This assignment came at a critical time as this highly politicized region has been facing serious challenges due to the strong Canadian dollar, rising cost of gasoline, increased border security and loss of traditional manufacturing jobs.

principal strategist: michael a. altman

What do you do when you’re the hottest region for businesses and jobs in the US? For two years in a row, Raleigh, North Carolina has topped Forbes magazine’s list of “Best Places for Business and Careers.” With people flocking to the area to live and a new Convention Center getting ready to open, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) decided it was time to invest in the destination brand. As a contractor in 2008 for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman led a team that worked with the GRCVB to conduct primary research and develop a new brand promise and positioning for a marketing program – Visit Raleigh – that promotes the region and everything it has to offer to visitors and residents alike.

For Raleigh, the future looks very bright indeed.

principal strategist: michael a. altman
strategist/account lead: ruth wieder

As a researcher and trainer for George Washington University's Institute for Tourism Studies, Michael Altman conducts research in hospitality and tourism and designs curriculum for delivery through the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance and USAID to emerging countries who are in need of better understanding of the forces that are shaping the global tourism industry and who can benefit from training in areas such as; tourism policy, tourism economics and forecasting, sustainable tourism development, destination branding and marketing, event and meeting management, e-marketing and social media, services marketing and more. In his work, he helps to build capacity of local academic institutions and professional organizations by training them to become certified and licensed to deliver GWU curriculum to students and professionals in their local markets.

In March 2009, he was in Yerevan, Armenia where he conducted training in Tourism Assessment, Sustainable Tourism and Destination Branding and Marketing for a multidisciplinary group of tourism educators, industry professionals and government stakeholders as part of USAID’s $14.2 million Competitive Armenia Private Sector Project (CAPS). At that time, he also delivered a lecture to 30 members of the Armenian Tourism Lecturers Club on Linking Contemporary Tourism Industry Trends to Contemporary Education Techniques and facilitated an interactive discussion focused on the challenge of equipping today’s graduates and future tourism employees with the skills and knowledge that are required by the competitive labor market and increased competition in the sector. Learn more about CAPS here.

consultant and trainers: michael a. altman, milena nikolova for George Washington University

In 2007 as contractors for a prominent Canadian communications agency, Michael Altman and Ruth Wieder worked with Washington DC's Shakespeare Theatre Company to develop a social media strategy that focused in part on increasing engagement with the blogging community by producing the company’s first-ever architectural blogger preview to support the launch of the new Harman Centre for the Performing Arts.

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder

Actionomics™ is DC’s economic development “jumpstart” process. Collaborative and community-driven, Actionomics is galvanizing DC business and civic leaders to accelerate economic “transformer” opportunities – innovative yet pragmatic initiatives that will fuel the city’sprosperity, today and tomorrow. Actionomics mobilizes stakeholders through unique, action-oriented “summits” designed to identify and seed public/private investment in bold development and job creation programs across diverse sectors – from green collar, creative and retail businesses to wellness, finance and other industries.

Michael Altman of Trialogue Studio served as consultant to the Washington DC Economic Partnership and the DC Office of Planning on defininng, expressing and marketing DC's first Actionomics summit held in November 2009 where over 150 people plus the media and Chairman of the DC Council Vincent Gray attended. Check out a clip on YouTube here.

principal strategist/design/marketing consultant: michael a. altman

With superstar Gilbert Arenas injured for most of the 2008 season, the Washington Wizards asked us to help them to conceive of a new organizational positioning and communications strategy that would ultimately result in a stronger, more resilient brand – one that is less dependent on any one individual and focuses first on the team and its values. of "Character, Committment and Connection."

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder
strategy intern: rachael honig

In May, 2009 Forest City Washington, Inc., developer of the major riverfront mixed-use project known as The Yards in the city's Capitol Riverfront district, along with the District of Columbia, officially broke ground on the development of the public park to be located on the riverfront at The Yards. The Yards Park officially opened in the fall of 2010 and was constructed through the use of public sector funds involving the "Payment In Lieu Of Taxes" (PILOT) program for financing such projects.

The Yards Park is designed to be the centerpiece of Forest City's 42-acre mixed-use project that will ultimately include 5.5 million SF of new development/redevelopment including approximately 2,800 residential units (both rental and for sale), 1.8 million SF of office space, 400,000 SF of retail/dining space. Designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners of New York City, The Yards Park includes several significant components:

  • A scenic riverfront esplanade and overlook that will provide a vital link for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which passes through the site;
  • Several well-landscaped outdoor rooms with seating areas;
  • An iconic waterfront sculpture designed by renowned international artist Jamie Carpenter;
  • A great lawn area for recreation, programming and/or relaxing;
  • As a future phase of the park area, three retail pavilions enclosing a riverfront plaza will provide numerous dining, shopping and programming opportunities, will also be developed;
  • Plans are also being developed for a marina at The Yards.

Trialogue Studio was engaged by Forest City and The District of Columbia Government to position the park, design a web site to promote its use and create environmental signage for the Park Grand Opening on September 7, 2010. Over 5,000 people attended the opening weekend festival that featured Art Whino, live performances, a Kid Zone, dog run, yoga and dance classes, great local food and more. Visit Yards Park for more information.

principal strategists: michael a. altman, ruth wieder
designer: jessie leiber

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