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Checking Out: Gabrielle Rosi

The senior design coordinator at Whole Foods Market in Northern California grew up in a world of art and music. Now she helps create environments that promote values and a sense of community



What about your past prepared you for Whole Foods?

My Chicago childhood was filled with art and creativity. My grandmother was an opera singer, my father is a sculptor, my mother a painter, and my grandparents had a fabulous apartment designed by a student of Mies van der Rohe.


Did you appreciate it at the time?

Probably not. You’re exposed to all of this amazing art that you don’t know is amazing until you’re older.



Did you ever pursue art as a child?

I performed violin and piano from the age of three. I played a solo concerto at Orchestra Hall [now the Chicago Symphony Center] when I was five.


And as an adult?

I studied marketing and advertising in college, and took some post-graduate courses in graphic design. I’d always been artsy, even when I was a kid. One summer, after college, I taught mural painting to high school kids and volunteered at an art center.



Why Whole Foods?

I love retailing, and was intrigued by the more approachable brands in Chicago, like Crate & Barrel and Paper Source. Someone told me to go check out Whole Foods. She said, “There are a lot of people there like you.”


What did she mean?

A lot of creative types, I think. Also, young people trying to find their way. Just a cool place to hang out. It was the only Whole Foods Market in Chicago in 1993. There were only maybe 30 stores in the country.



Did you begin as a graphic artist?

No, but I applied because I knew there were some design positions available. I began at the customer service desk. But I started helping the store artist a couple days a week; then he moved to a regional job, and I took over his position. Back then, we did a lot of chalkboards and illustrations – display props, signs, flyers. Very low-tech.


Satisfying work?

Yes, it was really hands-on. Also, I loved the people I worked with, and I loved being around delicious food every day. Now, I could never imagine myself not working for this company.


It’s not a 30-store chain anymore.

No, we’ve grown up quite a bit. We have more than 450 stores across the  country now.


But the Whole Foods mystique remains?

Yes. I think when you have people who believe in something that’s more than just selling groceries, it’s a magical place. [You experience] everything from promoting a healthy lifestyle to connecting with our company values to getting people to see food on a global level to providing a sense of community. There are so few places like that anymore.


How does technology change the outlook of a graphic artist?

I feel like my skills, the things I used to make with my hands … I don’t use those anymore. I sometimes miss the old hands-on work that I used to do. That’s why I love adult coloring books. All those cool gel pens, colored pencils and markers. Nothing like the old crayon box days. I find it relaxing, except I get really mad when I color outside the lines.





MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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