Steven Almond

MDes student, Steven Almond saw postgraduate study as a chance to expand his skill set and consider what the circular economy could mean for industrial design.

Steven Almond places a cushion on the 30 year sofa he designed for his Master's research.

Originally from Merseyside in the UK, Master of Design student, Steven Almond had been in working in industry as an Industrial Designer for 12 years, and says he saw postgraduate study as a chance to expand his skill set.

“I wanted to take time out from industry to reflect and expand on my design theory and methodology, and ultimately explore how we can address sustainability issues through design-led research.”

For his thesis research, Steven investigated how sofa design could be rethought for a circular economy, with an emphasis on repair, adaptability and reducing the environmental impact of sofa manufacturing.

“As an industry, most design has been part of a linear production model, where products are designed to be made, used and disposed of—also called the ‘take-make-dispose’ model—that is causing significant environmental issues.

“There is a starting to be a shift now in response to the growing awareness of sustainability and pollution issues. One approach to address these is a circular economy model, which focuses on how we can remove the burden placed on the environment for resources by keeping those materials in use for longer and thinking carefully about what happens to a product when it does finally reach the end of its life.

“This approach is being adopted by companies such as Patagonia, IDEO, Renault, Philips Lighting and Nike, however it is still very much an emerging field—so it is exciting to research an area which still quite new and is rapidly gaining momentum.

“My research used the sofa as a test case to explore how furniture could be rethought for a circular economy model. This involved redesigning the sofa as a system, prioritising repair, adaptability, redistribution and recycling. This allowed the sofa to be provided as a service, placing the responsibility for product stewardship on the service provider.”

Steven’s research was co-supervised by Natasha Perkins from the Wellington School of Architecture, and Tim Miller from the School of Design Innovation, who he says provided support to keep his research “ambitious yet structured.”

“They encouraged me to work in a way that suited my current skillset and workflow, while at the same time supporting me in areas which needed improvement, such as; writing, research structure and pointing me towards additional support in the university.”