Star formation is arguably the most important physical process in the cosmos. It is a fundamental driver of galaxy evolution and the ultimate source of most of the energy emitted by galaxies in the local universe. A correct interpretation of star formation rate (SFR) measures is therefore essential to our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution. Unfortunately, however, no single SFR estimator is universally available or even applicable in all circumstances: the numerous galaxies found in deep surveys are often too faint (or too distant) to yield significant detections with most standard SFR measures, and until now there have been no global multiband observations of nearby galaxies that span all the conditions under which star formation is taking place. To address this need in a systematic way, we have undertaken a multiband survey of all types of star-forming galaxies in the local universe. This project, the Star Formation Reference Survey (SFRS), is based on a statistically valid sample of 369 nearby galaxies that span all existing combinations of dust temperature, SFR, and specific SFR. Furthermore, because the SFRS is blind with respect to AGN fraction and environment, it serves as a means to assess the influence of these factors on SFR. Our panchromatic global flux measurements (including GALEX FUV + NUV, SDSS ugriz, 2MASS JHK(s), Spitzer 3-8 mu m, and others) furnish uniform SFR measures and the context in which their reliability can be assessed. This article describes the SFRS survey strategy, defines the sample, and presents the multiband photometry collected to date.