My name is Fiona O’Reilly I am a graphic designer, owner and partner in Donegal based creative design studio, where alongside my husband Lar, we connect with ambitious clients to create meaningful brands, and deliver purpose-led design. Over the years I have been very lucky to be able to travel and work in the creative industries in New York, Sydney and Dublin.
In 2006, I returned to Donegal and worked as a freelance designer while I furthered my studies in design obtaining an MA in Motion Graphics. Then in 2011, I fulfilled my ambition of setting up my own creative design studio called On The Dot Design. In our practice we are fortunate to collaborate and work with amazing creatives and clients all over the world, from artisan food producers and artists to national and international corporate clients. In our work we seek purpose and authenticity and we partner best with clients who share this ethos.
What sparked your interest in sustainable living and where did you start?
To be honest not sure where is started, but I think it was always there, my parents raised us with an awareness of sustainability. Mum made many of our clothes when we were young, she taught me how to sew, create and repair or repurpose things. We grew our own vegetables, my parents both came from a farming background and my Dad’s family had a local grocery shop in Monaghan. So I think we had a sense of growing or making your own in our DNA. My parents have always been keen gardeners and conscientious about environmental issues. They have a large composter and wormery and regularly supply the local community with worms. They are both nature lovers, so myself and my three sisters had a really idyllic upbringing in the countryside in Donegal – we had as our large
playground and I mainly remember the freedom of the forests and fields and summer trips to our mobile home by the sea in Rossnowlagh. So I guess I have my parents to thank for my own awareness they are still great role models and I feel very fortunate to have them in my life.
In the 90’s when I moved away from Donegal to Dublin and then further afield my sustainable mindset was not so dominant. However, my return to Donegal in 2006, slowly instigated a revived an interest in all things sustainable and circular economies. During the Covid Lockdowns when we all had a bit more time on our hands I joined a local community garden
and started growing my own tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and beetroot. I got hooked and loved the community vibe and the relaxation that growing seeds and working with soil can give, plus it got me away from the computer and the stress of work. You just cannot beat the satisfaction of gathering home grown produce and making tasty nutritious meals. I also joined an online cooking course that helped me learn new ways to cooking with vegetables with Rozanne Stevens and the The Susty Kitchen, she is passionate about sustainability around food and I learned an awful lot from her, if you are interested you can check out www.rozannestevens.com to find out more about her.
In the Summer of 2021, one of my clients opened a Zero Waste Shop and asked me to help with the branding and design for this. I became very intrigued in this way of grocery shopping. I began to observe all my food packaging and the confusing recyclable information and realised it was critical to figure out ways to shop differently and to take small steps to make a change. I became very aware of my shopping habits and realised I was constantly decluttering my wardrobe at home so became interested in Minimalism www.minimalist.com this led me to become mindful of my consumption and to start to change some habits. I am now in the process of creating a capsule wardrobe so I can buy key sustainable clothing items that have circularity values at their core with less waste.
What is a sustainable change you have made that makes you really happy?
I am really at the start of this journey and have started to shop in a local refill store, I now buy all my shower gels, washing up liquids and washing machine liquids in this store. I buy my Coffee beans and some other dry goods there too. I really want to plan to buy more in this way as it is great not to have to come home and put stuff in the trash for recycling. The figures of consumption and waste recycling and landfill and incineration really spoke to me and I started investigating and thinking about the amount of waste I was generating and thinking of new ways of shopping for groceries. I am slowly changing my shopping habits bit by bit and really want to help others understand some simple changes they can make that will not cost them much more. I am really trying to stop purchasing single use plastic and I know this is just the beginning for me.
Are you tackling any sustainable changes at the moment you’d like to share or are planning to?
Recently we got a Electric Car and I am really happy we made this change, we are also exploring ways to make our home more energy efficient and plan to install solar panels in the near future.
I am aware that I can only make some changes at the moment. Today I am much more mindful of my consumption. I think more about the Life Cycle of the items I buy particularly clothing and footwear. I now buy my footwear from Camper as they have very strong sustainable values and will soon be a B Corp. I am fortunate in my Design practice to work with a variety of sustainably motivated companies from NTA Smarter Travel initiatives, Renewable Energy providers such as Plan Energy, through to local artisan producers and makers. However, I felt a need to understand Design for Sustainability and the Circular Economy more deeply in order to work with and assist these clients as a responsible sustainable designer to ensure I was not enabling and promoting Green Washing. I have recently completed and passed a special purpose Level 9 Award course Titled “Design Sustainability and the Circular Economy” as I wanted to gain further knowledge in this topical area.
In the first couple of sessions of this course we were introduced to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and I became very interested in Responsible Consumption and Waste. https://sdgs.un.org/goals All this new found knowledge has inspired me to reflect on my own design practice initially and use aspects of this to assist and help my clients on their sustainable journey.
My passion for Branding and packaging design led me to investigate what role a graphic Designer could play around wasteful packaging and am still investigating this.
What would you like to see in a sustainable future? What could make living sustainably easier?
I would love to see more zero-waste versions of everyday essentials from popular brands. Why own a products and packaging (and have to throw it away when you are done), when all we really want is the stuff inside? One initiative that I am curious about and what the future will bring is LOOP.
I would like to spread awareness and share my knowledge about ways of preventing unnecessary waste from being created in the first place! The Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation have a wealth of information about many innovative companies that are piloting amazing things and their website is a fantastic resource. Thankfully the recent Irish Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy sets out a range of aims and targets for the State and the measures by which these will be achieved, including increased regulation and measures across various waste areas, you can read more about these targets here.
Today, the War in the Ukraine along with Brexit and many other factors is impacting on the cost of energy,supply of materials and food and there is scarcity, fear and a sense of unknown. I believe while we wait for all these new sustainable innovations we also need to find new ways to shop in a local way that is sustainable,ethical, circular, involves less transport and supports local businesses.
Learning from experts on the Certificate in Design for Sustainability and Circular Economies Course(DfSCE) about Circular Lifecycles and closed loop initiatives, then reading Cradle to Cradle a number of things really struck me “a Less bad approach is not really enough anymore”. “The best way to reduce any environmental impact is not to recycle more, but to produce and dispose of less” Robert Lilienfeld and William Rathje’s 1998 Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are. From Cradle to Cradle
If one of your friends told you they wanted to start living more sustainably, what would be your top tip to get started?
Desmond Tutu wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Start small, begin to make some achievable changes one step at a time. It can be over whelming but it is key to figure out some achievable goals to get started. Have a look around your locality and see what is on offer that can support you as you begin your journey. Check out any groups in your area that you would like to join. Find out who has the same values and surround yourself with like-minded people. Try not get overwhelmed, it is a lot to think about.
What keeps you motivated?
I think when you surround yourself with like-minded people you can get inspired to continue to make changes in your lifestyle that are more sustainable. It can be hard to always think about everything and its impact but it is so important to do our best however big or small that is. I get really inspired by so many small businesses who have sustainability at the core of everything they do. There are so many more initiatives happening in the world and it is evident that people want and demand options that are sustainable. Through my childhood I learned new ways of making and creating and I have continued this process throughout my career. My curiosity as a child has stayed with me, I love to learn and find out more about new ways of working and about new products.I love to listen to people and learn from them, this is one of the things I love about being a graphic designer, each project is completely different, I am fortunate to get to learn from my clients and the services and products they provide. I find working in the community garden really helps me to get a good balance into my work life, it brings me down to earth and grounds me. I love learning from the other gardeners and the sense of community and simplicity with less wastefulness and sharing. I also enjoy walking with my Dog Max, camping, sea swimming and really being in touch with nature.
And For a bit of fun and… really find out about you…What was your first concert or your first CD/Tape/Record you owned?
I am showing my age here, the first tape I owned was Madness Greatest Hits bought for me by my cool older cousin John. My first big gig was Neil Young in Slane in the early 90’s.
Feel free to give a shout out to your favourite sustainable shop/brand/cafes
Wholegreen and their Zero Waste shop in Letterkenny
Donegal seaglass Donegal Natural Soap Donegal Glamping
What is your favourite and most special place for you in Ireland?
I love Ireland and nearly every nook and cranny here in Donegal. I have a number of places that I love but one that is very special is Ards Forest Park in Donegal. Here you have the perfect blend of forest, hills and sea with a variety of amazing walks depending on what you are up for. It has an amazing sense of peace and tranquillity with breath taking scenery. It is a very calming and spiritual place.
Connect with Fiona!
Check our her website On the dot design
LinkedIn & Instagram