We are fluent in choice business sectors:
Construction & Engineering · Corporate Events
Education · Food & Beverage · Life Sciences
Technology · Visual & Performing Arts
Wine Industry


About Us and Our Atypical Process


Our science-based process and nature-centric approach are the generators of SDI’s thoughtful solutions. We figure that with 3.8 billion years of trial and error, mother nature is on to something. Those evolutionary lessons influence the filter on our design lenses. So by examining the processes and pattern formation of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, math and biology), our discoveries can help us build a model for creating robust connections between meaning, emotion and aesthetics in our project work, and for constructing systemic processes that make sense. We dub this work graphic ecology.



Founded in 1989, Shelby Designs (SDI) is a small-but-mighty, full-service, customer-obsessed design consultancy. We believe a cohesive, story-telling brand creates results by promoting credibility and fostering confidence.

To that end, and to each project, we bring deep engagement. We offer diverse talents and an unusually wide range of thinking—about things like tactics, marketing, potential, multiple meanings, aesthetics, attention and sustainable design. We pride ourselves on establishing lasting professional relationships with our clients and contacts that span career moves, and recently, generations.




The Founder


Shelby Putnam Tupper  {Creative Director}  graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut with a BS in biology and a minor in French. She did post-graduate work at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where she received honors in the field of Medical & Scientific Illustration. She grew her entrepreneurial and design legs during her tenure at Harrison Design Group in San Francisco.

Since its founding, Shelby Designs has received more than 100 local, national and international awards, has had their work published in books and top trade journals and exhibited in shows at The Palace of Fine Arts, The Masonic Auditorium and The SF Center for the Book.


Outside the office, Shelby is a faceted artisan intoxicated by pre-1900s scientific illustration, engraving and typography. She also enjoys fiddling with her golden mean calipers and the number 1.618, and tinkers with computational graphics and Voronoi diagrams. She makes dimensional art from the pressroom’s recycled trimmings and fires up her torches to create jewelry from glass and steel. Shelby was born and raised in Oakland, where she lives with her husband, son and daughter, four cats, a gecko—and a tortoise named Darwin.


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“Our experience in working with Shelby Designs from the first contact to final invoice was carefully and professionally managed with steps proceeding logically from initial concepts to intermediate and final designs and proofs. During each step your team struck the right note for listening to our needs and providing helpful suggestions based on your experience.”
—Afghanistan Technical Vocation Institute

“You make me aim higher and I am so ever grateful for what you have done here.”
—Fulcrum Wellness

“I will read whatever you ever write. Poetic, heartfelt, creative, lovely.” 
—Opening Eyes, LLC

“I send our deep thanks to you, Shelby. Your design and attentive, prompt work was immensely helpful to us and our budding business. The reception to our collateral was very positive! We enjoyed an immediate boost in our marketing ability. We know these materials will generate earnings, and we owe that to you!” 
—Linda, development professional






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