Sally Colwell
Stylist, Graphic Designer, Web Designer and Copy Writer at PUBLIC, PUBLIC's headquarter, San Francisco

Please share your background with us and where do you come from? 
Both sides of my family come from the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland. I spent my high-school years in Virginia outside of Washington, DC; moved out west to Colorado for 5 years; lived in Brooklyn, NY for 3 years; and finally settled in northern California for the past 4 years and counting. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in August, so it’s safe to say we’ve made a nest in the Oakland, CA hills.

Art and design sew together the places I have lived. My mom is a painter and interior designer and always fostered the importance of creativity at home. From working for Ray & Charles Eames granddaughter in Colorado, to the art gallery scene of NYC, to the graphic design world of San Francisco, I steer myself towards creativity and excitement.

Could you please tell us more about your job and role at PUBLIC?
PUBLIC is a design & city bicycle company. Our vision is that more of our urban streets and sidewalks get reclaimed for walking and biking, and that our public spaces are developed for better human interaction and conversation.

I’ve been on the founding team of
PUBLIC since launch in May 2010. Job titles often limit the scope of work that one does for a start-up. So we had fun with job titles. I ended up as the PUBLIC Swiss Army Knife. But a more dry and professional title is Project Manager & Creator of Visual Assets. I work side-by-side with Rob Forbes, Founder & Art Director of PUBLIC, who is best known as the Founder of Design Within Reach. Together we strategize the brand identity of the company. I execute the graphic design, marketing communications, information architecture, e-commerce experience, photo shoots and styling, and retail storefronts & signs. The best way to see my work is to take a spin through our website,

You are in charge of an interesting project called PUBLIC WORKS. What is it? 

We asked ~30 world reknowned designers to interpret the bicycle and our public world for a traveling exhibition called PUBLICWORKS. Nearly every designer we asked jumped into the project. Each of the final 27 designers submitted a poster design and the exhibition traveled from San Francisco to SoHo in NYC. It was a career high to work with Milton Glaser, Maira Kalman, Jason Munn, Paula Scher, Kit Hinrichs, Sagmeister & Walsh, Dana Arnett, Jason Schulte, Erik Spiekerman, among others.

Describe your work in 3 words? 

Crisp. Clear. Modern.

What's PUBLIC philosophy?
Our vision is for a time when we think as carefully about the way we get around everyday as we do about what we eat, how we dress, and how we furnish our homes. It’s not a utopian or unrealistic vision. In most modern cities in and outside the US, people make daily choices between trams, buses, walking, cars, trains, bikes, scooters, ferries, and other transportation alternatives. It’s mainly in the US where we default to the car as our basic mode of mobility.  Our vision is for a rush hour that looks more like what you see in Utrecht, Holland. We view bikes as design in motion.

Did you had the chance to be part of the team who designed the first PUBLIC Bike? And today what's your role concerning the design of PUBLIC bikes?
It truly takes a skilled mechanical engineer to design a bike. So as far as the mechanics of PUBLIC bikes I have little involvement. I pipe in when it is time to decide on bike colors and accessories. Once the product is complete, I spend my time designing the marketing campaigns that shape our brand and ultimately sell our products.

What defines good design for you and is there any designers or artists who has influenced you in a special way? 
Good design makes life easy. Ray & Charles Eames continue to inspire my work and philosophy.

The PUBLIC studio is beautiful. Is there a story you can share about this place?
Thank you. We love our headquarters and studio in South Park. The building has maintained a history of designer tenants. With high ceilings, hardwood floors, a large garage door, and sky lights it’s hard to imagine working anywhere else. We easily transform the space for events, film screenings, and a store during the day.

Built in 1852, South Park was designed to be a residential community modeled after a square in London. Ebs and flows brought on by natural disasters and evolving commerce patterns continually transform the area. The dot com boom reshaped a then drug riddled park into a high-end desireable neighborhood. Today the park is sprinkled with boutique fashion designers, dot com headquarters, design firms, and French cafes, (even the Mexican restaurant is called Mexico Au Parc).

You have some very colorful paintings in your office where do they come from?
Glad you asked. The paintings come from CreativeGrowth, an Oakland based studio and exhibition space for adult artists with mental and physical disabilities. The artists have accomplished amazing feats such as retail display windows for Marc Jacobs, included in MoMA NY permanent collection, and an annual fashion show. It’s the most inspirational space I have ever entered. We like to support local organizations whenever possible. Plus we enjoy being surrounded by creativity and color.

How do you start your day and what does your daily routine looks like?
Morning is my favorite part of the day. I have the most energy right out of bed. While making tea and breakfast, I catch up on my favorite news feeds and blogs. I’ve recently been baking homemade biscuits with fresh jam. Pregnancy might have something to do with that!

Every day at the studio is a little different. I keep a well groomed marketing calendar so I know what is in the pipeline. Creativity flows best in open environments with feedback and breaks so I ususally have a few projects going simultaneously to stay inspired. A few times a year I spend the day out of the studio on an photo shoot adventure capturing the look and feel of PUBLIC.

Describe SF in 3 words
Beautiful. Delicious. Natural.

What is your favorite place to eat in SF?
That’s a tough question. Since I love pastries so much, I’ll say Tartine.

Thank you Sally for your time and your beautiful energy!! It was absolutely lovely to meet you!

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