Sussex Associate contributes to latest RSA report on designing for the circular economy…

Claire Potter is an Associate Tutor at the University of Sussex and runs a multi-faceted design studio in Brighton which focusses on circular economy design and architecture. Claire’s ‘Role of Design in the Circular Economy’ module, which is taught to final year Product Designers brings this practice and research into education, and Claire has recently been quoted in the latest RSA report from the Great Recovery – so – what is circular economy design? We asked Claire for a run down…

‘Over the past few years, we have seen a distinct transition from what was formerly known as ‘eco design’ or ‘green design’ into a much more complete and all encompassing term – circular economy design. This takes into account the different veins of truly sustainable design, from material specification and design for disassembly to remanufacture, reassembly and supply chain issues. It is the way of designing that we have to transition towards globally – ending the typical take / make / use / discard mantra that flows in most of our products today. And given that up to 80% of a products environmental impact is decided at design stage (1), designers hold a great deal of both responsibility and opportunity to create change.


This is how we should all think as designers – we know that each of our decisions hold a huge amount of implications to our projects, our clients and ultimately our environments, so we take steps at each stage to ensure that we are working as closely within a circular economy remit as possible.


So, it was brilliant that in 2012, as a studio, we discovered The Great Recovery Project – an RSA project that was seeking to understand the impact of circular economy design, how it could be implemented and how to see the opportunities. We became avid followers of the research and took part in many of the workshops – investigating all aspects of this growing area.

Many of this research has fed into our own studio work, as well as the role I play as an educator – namely in the 12 week module I wrote and deliver to the final year Product Design students at the University of Sussex‘the role of Design in the Circular Economy’. 

So four years on and launched this week, the Great Recovery is now looking back at what has been discovered and learnt about the circular economy, and how design, making and manufacture plays a critical role. This is all now available in a free to download report available here.

Design for the Circular Economy quote

Circular Economy Design is the future. And we need to get there as soon as we can.’  

(1) Sophie Thomas, Director of Design at The RSA and the Great Recovery Project

(images via the Great Recovery Project)

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