Clare Brass


  • Clare Brass
  • Area

    School of Design


    Head SustainRCA

  • Senior Tutor

    • Innovation Design Engineering
  • Clare Brass was a commercial design practitioner for 20 years, with sustainability as a main driver of her work. She was Leader of Sustainability at Design Council before setting up SEED Foundation, exploring the role of design in creating and supporting social business, and using the learning from environmental research to create enterprise opportunities.

    She is Head of SustainRCA, a cross-departmental centre for sustainability at the Royal College of Art, and Senior Design Tutor in IDE (Innovation Design Engineering).

  • Biography

  • Clare Brass was born in the UK and moved to Milan in 1985, where she began a product design consultancy in 1987. As a design consultant for industry, her clients included Alessi, TVS, Domo by Guzzini, San Patrignano, Ritzenhoff, Glaskoch and others.

    Alongside her design work Clare Brass initiated and developed a number of social and environmental projects, tackling issues such as recycled plastic, water and dog fouling. She began to work on the idea that problems should be viewed as opportunities, and began to develop some of these projects into business enterprises.

    She moved to London in 2004 to become Campaign Leader for Manufacturing at the Design Council, developing a business support system at the core of the Designing Demand programme to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) use design more profitably. She became Leader of Sustainability in 2006, writing a research paper identifying design’s role in the sustainable development agenda.

    She left the Design Council in 2007 to set up a new organisation that could realise some of the thinking around design’s new role: SEED – Social Environmental Enterprise + Design explores new avenues of cross-collaborative entrepreneurship for designers. SEED Foundation works on environmental research projects and seeks to develop and support the entrepreneurial opportunities inherent within them. To date two Defra-funded design research projects have been completed. The first, about food waste, saw a pilot food waste and food growing system being co-designed with residents of a London housing estate. A second project looked at the role of plumbers and intermediaries in the water industry to inform and advise the public on ways of using water more responsibly. SEED Foundation also collaborated in the HERA-funded SCIBE project (Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment.

    Clare first began working with RCA through Design London, a joint project with Imperial College. Her role was to bring design and sustainability thinking to students of the Business School at Imperial and Innovation Design Engineering students at the RCA. Through this role she was responsible for introducing sustainability as a core criteria for IDE graduation, as well as working with students to help them with how to implement this into their work.

    Clare began helped build the foundations of SustainRCA in 2010 thanks to a small grant from the Teaching and Learning Fund to set up a series of inspirational talks about sustainability. She is now the leader of SustainRCA, inspiring, encouraging and supporting students to embrace sustainability in their work, and building liaisons with external organisations to generate student-led solutions to their social and environmental challenges.

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  • Practice

  • Clare’s research explores and promotes new design approaches, roles and partnership models to meet the challenges of sustainability through the support or creation of social enterprise.

    The responsible design of objects and services is important, but designers need to learn to work with other professions, considering infrastructure and collaborating with communities. The new role of design must encompass the design of innovative products and services through partnerships that can impact on lifestyles and behaviour.
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Selected work