Since graduating from BU in 2000, Max McMurdo has built a career as a designer, upcycler, entrepreneur and TV presenter.
Now the Product Design Visualisation graduate is using his skills and experience to help turn the tide on single-use plastics. We caught up with Max as he returned to meet the next generation of young designers at BU’s Festival of Design and Engineering.
Max recalls three reasons for deciding to study at BU in the mid-90s. Firstly, the course. “I grew up with a love of design and making things and I wanted a course that could turn this into a career, without narrowing my options.” A close second was the coastal location and thirdly a high-profile recommendation for the nightlife. He remembers: “I heard Chris Evans say on his radio show that Bournemouth had the best Students’ Union in the country. That swung it for me.”
Having enrolled on the course, it didn’t disappoint. He says: “The content was so broad, you got to learn everything from CAD to woodworking, data analysis to manufacturing processes. It was a great training ground. I also spent a fantastic placement year with Rover and this helped me to secure a graduate role – and fulfil a childhood dream - working as a car designer for Ford in Germany. I really owe such a lot to my time at Bournemouth.”
While in Germany Max noticed that the country was well ahead of the UK in terms of re-use and recycling. Feeling inspired, he returned to the UK and set up reestore with the purpose of designing and manufacturing high-end furniture from waste destined for landfill. The business picked up several design awards, but really hit the big time after Max took his creations onto the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. He said: “I secured investment from two of the dragons which helped to build momentum. I went on to sell items including my bathtub chairs to businesses such as The Body Shop, for their stores throughout the world, and completed several installations for Google’s head offices.”
A few years on, and with upcycling becoming increasingly popular, Max was approached by Channel 4 to star on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. Having showed viewers how to create a home office from a shipping container, he went on to appear on Kirstie Allsopps Fill Your House for Free and the £10k Holiday Home with Julia Bradbury.
Max said: “The TV thing just kind of happened. I am not a trained journalist or presenter, but I learned that if you take an interest in what you are doing, and in the people you are talking to, it comes across to the viewers at home. The pressure of TV – being filmed in a junkyard and having to make something out of what’s there – certainly makes you up your game. I love that.”
While the TV and design work continues, Max is now focused on how the recycling ethos can help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges. His latest venture, Botl Blox, makes use of discarded plastic drinks bottles and cardboard boxes to provide low-cost sound and heat insulation for buildings. He said: “I have taken the idea to Africa, where we were able to collect bottles from rubbish dumps before packing them and using them in a school which couldn’t otherwise afford to create walls between its classrooms. Designers are in the privileged position to be able to provide solutions to the problems that we are all facing, and I am excited to see how we can develop this product in partnership with big corporations who are producing the waste in the first place.”