Art Interviews POP-IN@Nordstrom

Public Supply Takes Philanthropy Back to School

The four friends behind Public Supply have a passion for design, an ardent belief in keeping art and music in schools—and a simple method for taking the guesswork out of giving back:

1) Buy one of their USA-made notebooks (25% of profits benefit public schools).
2) Check the batch number on the back.
3) Go to their website and match your number to the specific classroom on the receiving end of your good deed.

Once there, you’ll find a precise breakdown of the supplies you helped fund (ranging from printer ink to sheet music to robotics kits). But the best part has to be the heartfelt words of gratitude typed up by each dedicated teacher, explaining the cognitive value of their new teaching tools and just how ecstatic his or her students will be.

Keep reading to see eight of our favorite thank-you notes—plus a Q&A with Public Supply cofounder Russell Daiber.

Left: Did we mention that they make pencils too?
Right: A look inside Public Supply’s office in Brooklyn. “The super-nice guy with black hair is our buddy Palmer,” Russell noted.

THE THREAD: How would you describe Public Supply and its mission?
PUBLIC SUPPLY COFOUNDER RUSSELL DAIBER: “Public Supply is a group of friends that makes quality office and writing supplies, and we donate 25% of our profits to public school classrooms doing creative work. It’s our goal to be thoughtful and responsible in how we approach both sides of our business—the design and durability of our notebooks and pencils on the one hand, and the transparency and focus of our giving on the other.”

How did the brand come to be? Is it a reflection of its founders’ respective careers?
“While all of us come from slightly different backgrounds as designers, teachers, writers and entrepreneurs, we all hold the same belief in the importance of design. We also place a lot of weight on the stories behind the objects we bring into our lives. It was instinctive for us to make notebooks and pencils—objects we use to sketch and write and design daily. We also saw a chance to bolster the creative arts and music programs here in New York schools—it felt natural that these objects we use for creativity and design would help support school classrooms doing the same thing. So, Public Supply came about very organically.”

What drew you to make education the focal cause that Public Supply supports? Why is this issue important?
“We support creative work in schools, which can mean music, theater, studio art, creative writing, coding…any activity where students are building something they dreamt up by themselves. All of the Public Supply partners felt personally that our creative educations and class time were important to us becoming the people we are today, and there’s a lot of research to support the importance of arts education—art classes help kids develop confidence, empathy, communication skills, project management skills and lots else that’s tough to quantify. And there’s a need: In New York City, for example, funding for arts classrooms has been cut by 85% since the 2006-2007 school year. (Not a typo!)”

Public Supply (and in turn, our current Pop-In shop, TMRW TGTHR) is about helping others—but it’s also about cool products. What are some of the craftsmanship details that go into a Public Supply notebook?
“Our 5 x 8 paperback notebooks are built for durability and sized for day-to-day use. The covers are offset-printed in New Jersey in a wide array of colors, and each book is perfect-bound with 96 pages of cream, 80 lb. paper in custom lined or dot layout. They age quite well.”

Who was your favorite teacher growing up, and why? [Russell asked a couple of his fellow cofounders to weigh in on this one.]
COFOUNDER ADAM LONDON: “I went to Sun Valley Elementary School on Happy Lane, and my 1st grade teacher, I kid you not, was Miss Bliss. She would start every day off by playing the piano for the class and having us sing along. On your birthday, you got to choose the song that the class would sing. My birthday was in July, and I was really sad that I was never able to choose a song. Miss Bliss suggested we celebrate my half-birthday. Needless to say, I was elated.”

[Favorite teachers, cont’d.]
COFOUNDER WILLIAM BRIAN SMITH: “My music teacher. More than just a skill, she taught me patience and discipline, something that has helped me appreciate a world that would have otherwise been completely unknown to me.”

[Favorite teachers, cont’d.]
COFOUNDER RUSSELL DAIBER: “Sixth grade English. My teacher had us write some short stories in class, and I remember she was the first person who asked me what my characters were doing when they weren’t part of my story. What a crazy, baffling, exciting question.”

Shop all Public Supply notebooks and pencils,
and discover more goods that do good at Pop-In@Nordstrom: TMRW TGTHR.

Learn more at

—Justin Abbott