I’m really excited to announce this month’s Beyond the PX interviewee Claire Potter. Why? Claire’s on a mission to educate the planet on plastic usage and usability through the work of her own design studio. Producing design work and saving the planet? Big check from me.
Can you explain briefly who Claire Potter Studio are?
Claire Potter Design is a circular economy design studio based in Brighton UK — we do a variety of things from interior architecture to product design and research, and are specialists in ocean plastic recovery and reuse.
Oh — and we run the international behaviour change campaign Plastic Free Pledge and I lecture in circular economy design at the University of Sussex.
What has been your design journey up until now?
From a young age, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but I ended up doing Interior Architecture at the University of Brighton instead.
After my degree, I moved to the alps to snowboard for a winter (which was ace), then had a variety of jobs from freelance designer, to kitchen designer, to interior architect and then on to founding my own studio.
What does your typical morning look like?
Never too early!
Coffee and emails to begin with along with catching up on news to do with circular economy stuff from Google Alerts —until about 11am usually — then emails go off till later in the afternoon.
A bit of social media catching up, or scheduling, then on to client work or project research for the rest of the day.
I work better as an admin person in the morning and a creative in the afternoon.
What does your design?
Nothing too specialist, but Photoshop and InDesign are used a lot, plus AutoCAD and SketchUp for quick 3D renders. And then specialist life cycle analysis tools as well, such as Open LCA.
Do you have any design hacks?
Know when you are creative! I’m an owl, so getting me to do anything creative before 12 is utterly pointless.
If you know how you work, you can work better and more efficiently. And turn off emails. They suck your attention and drain your focus.
Do you find it hard to define what you do to your friends?
Some days I have trouble defining what I do! I could be talking to a client about a single-use plastic reduction campaign in the morning, doing plans for an eco fit out of a shop in the afternoon and figuring out the logistics of how to recover end-of-life fishing nets from a port for melting down into new products last thing.
Variety is the spice of life though.
Do your career aspirations encroach your life?
My life is my work and vice versa.
All my life ethics cross into my design ethics — as a circular economy designer, an aspiring minimalist, a single-use plastic activist — my personal life and design life are the same.
How do you design ‘for the future’?
For the studio, ‘designing for the future’ means considering so many factors — and these alter depending on the project we are working on. It may be designing a ‘thing’ to last the longest amount of time possible, or something that can be easily amended as the client’s life changes, or that uses an otherwise untapped waste stream from a different sector.
Circular Economy design is about efficiency — and something that is regenerative by design. And for us, as zero waste as possible and not designing for designs sake. We don’t need more ‘stuff’.
What was it that drew you into sustainable design?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been completely obsessed with the natural world — and what we are doing to it as a species.
When it came to design, for me, there was just no other way that we should be doing things. I have an issue with the term sustainable design too — I think it should be just the way things are always designed.
We shouldn’t be separating it off into a sub-category in my opinion.
Will your studio evolving?
The work of the studio has changed significantly in the last couple of years. We are certainly working more as consultants to companies of all size who want to improve their offerings in line with circular economy practices.
We are using our design thinking skills and CE expertise as tools — and we can only see this increasing as resources get lower and our global‘business as usual’ models shift.
What advice would you give for those interested in designing for Circular Economy?
Really understand who you are designing for — and make sure you are designing the best possible thing in the best possible way, with the best possible processes, the least amounts of waste and that actually — people need the thing that you are creating.
Or as we say in the studio — Don’t create shit or shit people don’t need.
What is your advice to juniors?
I firmly believe there is a place for everyone. It is very hard to get started and find your place, but also, do not panic if you don’t know exactly what you want to do.
I look at everything the studio has done every year and do an edit — what did we love to do, what do we want to do more of… everything is in a state of flux.
Do you work on any side projects?
Plastic Free Pledge is a side project of the studio and grew very quickly from a local campaign to an international one, which is crazy but wonderful.
At the moment, we earn no money from PFP at all — and run it in our ‘spare’ studio time, but we wanted to create a movement that would create behaviour change, however small.
We all play a part.
I really enjoy how Claire takes a holistic, long term, approach to her design and product work. What’s more, the fact that the studio seek out efficient and sustainable methods of production is a fantastic way to approach any design problem. What do we already have, and how can we reuse this rather than creating something brand new?
See you next time.
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