Hello World Part 1: An introduction to the Public Design Bureau founders

Illustration by Ash Tsai. Learn more about our illustrators.

Hello World Part 1: An introduction to the Public Design Bureau founders

Annemarie and Liz have known each other for a very long time (from the very first day of freshman year of college!), and have fortunately ended up traveling down paths that led to collaboration with each other in many formats and contexts, from theater productions to design competitions to human-centered design projects. 

As we officially introduce our new shared venture, we want to start by introducing ourselves, and give you a little background about our experiences, motivations, super powers, etc. The self-interview below has the highlights, but if you’re curious to hear more, send us a note and we’ll find a time to chat! 

Liz: Let’s start out by introducing each other.

Annemarie: Why don’t folks just head over and read our bios on the Public Design Bureau website

Liz: Because website bios are not as fun and interesting as we actually are. Is there anything you want to add to my bio? 

Annemarie: That you are an unstoppable and joyful creator, designer, maker, crafter across so many formats. A few standouts: 

  • undertaking extreme alterations on thrift-store dresses, and crafting the resulting fabric scraps into dozens of yards of triangle bunting for friends and family
  • designing an alter-ego, Ms. Metrolink, to advocate for local transportation through campaigns and public events
  • creating at least three clubs (shout out to the Park Picnic Project!)

Annemarie: What about my bio? Anything to add?

Liz: To be honest, the most obvious thing that we must add is your love of babies. Baby people in particular, but I think you’ll take baby hedgehogs in a pinch. You’ve also taught me so much about what a work/life balance can really mean, and having a real respect for what your body needs (particularly if that means being in bed reading articles through what I consider the best part of the day, 7a to 11a). Finally, you are the number one cheerleader for so many people, but bringing cheer in a way that has no compare. It never feels sappy, just motivating! 

Liz: What’s your design super power? Even better if it’s slightly embarrassing. 

Annemarie: I see the potential-future-value in all sorts of small bits of stuff and have been collecting and creating with it for years. Now, I can professionally call my collection “prototyping supplies”, but during my years of frequent moving it was less-generously dubbed by my mom “the trash I like to keep.” Since this, err…super power, started long before I heard of “design”, I like to take it as a sign that I was destined to thrive while creating within constraints and leveraging the overlooked assets all around us. 

Annemarie: How did you first find out about human-centered design and design thinking? 

Liz: I first learned about “design thinking” in the late 90s when a family friend taped the IDEO special on Nightline from 1999. I was 12 or 13, and when I watched it I immediately said, “that’s what I want to do,” because it was a way to merge solving problems and doing it with and for people. And then everything from there was trying to figure out how to get there, which was hard — there’s no clear path, which is for the best because it really built a much more interesting network and skillset. I went to engineering school, then into University administration, then to design school and innovation consulting, and then back to University administration, and finally into Public Design Bureau. Since perhaps Public Design Bureau was the goal all along, it ended up being perfect. 

Liz: What’s your favorite memory of doing things together? 

Annemarie: Obviously, the time we designed a theatre set in college that featured at least a dozen toilets which we sourced from many alleys and the treasure of Craigslist Free Stuff. In retrospect, I’d argue it was our first joint human-centered design project. We balanced the needs of the actors and artistic team, the often-strange demands of the script, the unique context of the outdoor stage, and the tight schedule and budget. 

Annemarie: Outside of Public Design Bureau, what’s important to you? 

Liz: Keeping things alive! I have two kittens, adopted during the pandemic. Keeping one of them occupied, and the other one not afraid of everything, is important to me. I’m also really invested in plants: we have hundreds of house plants inside, plus a large native garden in the front yard. I’ve also been a garden leader in my neighborhood garden for the last 6 years. 

Liz: What’s the most outrageous hustle I’ve ever tricked you into? 

Annemarie: Moving to Chicago to work at a part-time internship while also completing a community design competition entry and sleeping on your couch. My official professional start in human-centered design sounds fancier if I leave off that last bit, but it was a key part of the hustle. And that summer did lead to 6+ years of working at Greater Good Studio and being awarded 3rd place in the Design Makes Change challenge, so I think it was well worth the couch time. 

Now that you know a bit more about us, we’d love to hear more about you! Where did you first get excited about design? What do your best collaborations feel like? How can we make change together? Let us know at hello@publicdesignbureau.com.

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