Interview with Tracy Sutton, packaging innovation and brand sustainability consultant

Tracy Sutton is a future focused packaging innovation and brand sustainability consultant who runs her own business, Root. During a three-day workshop with Tracy, the stage 2 SPD students worked in teams to develop packaging design concepts that are truly inclusive across a range of FMCG industries. They used human-centred design research techniques to establish the criteria needed to improve existing packaging, and embraced a model of disruptive innovation to challenge pre-conceived ideas surrounding the way we currently engage with packaging.

Following the workshop, stage 2 student, Sarah Grange, was able to conduct an informal interview with Tracy to get her perspective on the project:


What did you expect us to learn from the three day workshop you led with stage 2?

My aim was for you to gain an understanding that there is a creative and a business opportunity that can be gained from designing with inclusivity and sustainability in mind. I also wanted for everyone to get engaged with the different aspects of packaging design; format, use, material and decoration.


What surprised you about the final project presentations at the end of the time with us? Were there ideas that you hadn’t previously thought of?

I was really impressed that everyone really understood some pretty complex areas of inclusivity, sustainability and packaging design. I also loved how well the work combined the challenges together in well considered, holistic solutions. The work presented explored a fantastic variety of sustainable design strategies (re-use, lightweight, etc) and went into much more depth than I had imaged which was great.


What values did you see shine through in the students’ work and what values would you like to bring to light to help them design more consciously?

Transparency, creativity and innovation were three key values that were embedded in the majority of the work. The biggest motivator to design consciously is that it helps you to break design norms, to create your own rules and to help your work have a competitive edge compared to others who don’t think inclusively.


What is your best piece of work/ project that is based mainly around inclusive design and why?

I’d love to say that I work on many projects where inclusivity is a core focus, but that’s not the case. Brands today are just waking up to the opportunity to be more inclusive in the design of products and packaging. It is becoming more of a talking point in the industry and I’m seeing it start to appear at conferences, which means it will soon be in design briefs. This puts you as designers in the heart of an area of creativity that can only grow in a positive direction.


How did you get to where you are now based on what you did project-wise at university?

With passion, tenacity and belief in myself. The journey to set up your own business is full of highs, lows, fear and passion – you need to be prepared and dedicated to make it happen and the rewards are definitely worth it.  I’ve been very determined to set myself a career covering three areas I love most; design, sustainability and packaging and I would not change it!


How do you feel the course has evolved since your time studying here when it wasn’t entitled Sustainable Product Design and what aspects do you really like about the current course?

It’s great how the course has evolved to contain so much relevant content that equips students so well for the connection to business and the journey from being a student to eventually, an employee. The tutors have so much valuable expertise covering a vast range of creative, ethical and environmentally considerate topics, the breadth and depth is key for students to really give them a solid platform of education and experience for their journey out of academia into business.

[story: Sarah Grange / stage 2 SPD]


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