The Public is an activist design studio specializing in changing the world. We believe that an important message conveyed with inspiration can do just that. We give our clients work that is creatively, emotionally, and intellectually uplifting, that challenges oppressive ideas, and that empowers people to pursue real change.
We are not just committed to ethical and sustainable practices; we are defined by them. We believe in and practice eco-friendly printing processes, progressive hiring, democratic decision-making, and local purchasing. We are very present in the communities we work in and with and strive to make a positive impact on their cultures, environments, and economies.
The Public is run by principals and creative directors, Sheila Sampath and Natalia Saavedra, and a team of community organizers working collaboratively and bringing our common goals and divergent experiences to the drawing board.
Sheila Sampath (principal & creative director) has been crafting creative for social good since 2003. Former chair of the board at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multi-cultural Women Against Rape, she has a background in grassroots anti-oppression activism, which she incorporates into her strategic approach to graphic design. She is the editorial and art director of award-winning magazine, Shameless — Canada’s feminist voice for young women and trans youth, and is actively involved in local art and music communities, playing in Toronto band, Tu Suis, and a board member of the South Asian Visual Arts Centre. She is an instructor at OCAD U, a member of the British Council’s TN2020 Network and a fellow of the Royal Society of Artists. Sheila holds a diploma in graphic design from the George Brown College School of Design and an Honours BSc. in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Toronto. Her work as a designer has been widely recognized and awarded and her political writing has been published internationally. Her first book, Letters Lived, was published by Three O’Clock Press in the fall of 2013.
Natalia Saavedra (principal & creative director) has made a name for herself in the Toronto Arts community through her work in design education for social change. She has worked in different design-related settings both as a community organizer and as a designer for the past 6 years. Natalia holds a Bachelor of Design degree from OCAD University. Her graduating thesis focused on the impact of graphic design outside of the mainstream exchanges of supply and demand, or capitalism, into a community-based practice of arts and design. She works with anti-oppressive and anti-authoritarian community-based organizations in Toronto, in the hopes of creating a sustainable and long-lasting relationship between her politics and her passion as a graphic designer. She teaches in Design and Social Justice at George Brown College, and is the founder and creative director of the Radical Design School, a grassroots community response to graphic media needs in the city of Toronto and beyond.
Anabel Khoo (bookkeeper & studio manager) is a multi-disciplinary artist and facilitator based in Toronto since 2010, working on initiatives that bring together media production and collective healing. Over the last decade, she has been involved in social justice activism through community-based media as a producer and trainer working with groups such as: The Prometheus Radio Project, CHRY 105.5 FM Community Radio, Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG York), Allied Media Conference, and ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication and Culture at York University/Ryerson University focusing on two-spirit, queer and trans people of color performance as social movement building. Through a visionary, relational, and embodied politics of liberation, she is currently developing the skills and resources to practice as a psychotherapist grounded in the principles of transformative justice and holistic healing.
Jenny Chan (Tsun See-Yun) (graphic designer & front-end developer) is an illustrator, front-end developer, and graphic designer who has been agitating and creating in Toronto for the last six years, collaborating with folks such as the Queer Zine Fair, the Letters to the Universe Collective, the Toronto Anarchist Bookfair, and Black Lives Matter-Toronto, to create imaginative work reflective of these transformative movements. Through their work with the Radical Design School, they strive to make art and design not only accessible, but also important tools of revolutionary social change. She attended the University of Waterloo, HackerYou, and OCADU, for environmental studies, front-end development, and illustration, and loves when these passions converge. Digitally, they’ve worked in a multitude of capacities, as a digital media manager, social media specialist, webmaster, front-end developer, and web designer, with non-profits, national publications, environmental NGOs, digital agencies, and more.
LJ Robinson (art director & graphic designer) is a maker and illustrator who’s been designing for resistance in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto for the past 8 years. A doodling daydreamer politicized by student movements, they have worked as both an organizer and designer on promotional strategies and visual language for initiatives such as the Rainbow Reels Queer & Trans Film Festival (2011-2013), Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Waterloo Public Interest Group (WPIRG), Free2Pee at George Brown College, York University Graduate Students’ Association, and Planned Parenthood Toronto’s Queering Sex Ed project. LJ holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo and studied Graphic Design at George Brown College, receiving an Equity Award for their design thesis project, a physical toolkit for small businesses to promote the safety of trans and gender nonconforming people accessing public bathrooms.
For over 15 years Derek Hogue (preferred contract web developer) has been designing and developing websites for radical publishers, artists and musicians, and non-profit advocacy organizations across Canada and beyond. An HTML and CSS expert, he is also an experienced PHP developer, and deeply-versed in content-management platforms such as Craft, ExpressionEngine, and WordPress. He designed and developed the free, open-source WordPress plugin GigPress (acquired by Modern Tribe in 2016), which has become an essential tool used by musicians and artists the world-over; and his custom ExpressionEngine add-ons have won numerous awards and nominations.