Balancing the Grind with Claire Blyth, Founder & Managing Partner at Red Setter

Claire Blyth is the Founder & Managing Partner at Red Setter, a specialist PR agency for design consultancies and corporate design teams.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve always worked in design agencies until I set up Red Setter just over 12 years ago. I love design but thought it didn’t get the credit it deserves.

I wanted to set up a PR agency that would amplify the voice of brilliant designers and the value of design. That’s what we do at Red Setter, and I lead the team there together with my husband (and business partner!) Alex. 

Last year I also helped found the Design Community Hub, an initiative to help graduates and young designers get into the design industry. It came as an immediate response to the pandemic but has grown into an essential platform for young creatives to kick start their design careers.

It already has the support of over 180 designers and design agencies, giving their time and skills via internships, workshops, and portfolio reviews and more. It’s exciting to be part of this and to watch it evolve. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I wake up at 7am and start the day with 20 minutes of transcendental meditation. It calms my head and sets me up for the day. It also means I can get my kids ready for school without arguing. Well mostly! 

I’m usually in the office for 9am three days a week and spend the other two working from home, but keep this flexible. 

I start the week with a full team meeting. It’s a great way to bring everyone together and to get our heads into how the week ahead is looking. We use it to celebrate the previous week’s successes and to share learnings.

I follow that with some internal team meetings with our ADs, checking where they need support, either with their teams or clients. This week I followed this with a meeting responding to a request from a design agency we already work with in San Francisco, who would like to do more with us. Always a great feeling when clients want more! 

I break the day up with walks with our lockdown pup Patsy (who loves coming into the office for all the attention). If the sea is calm, I’ll head to the beach for a lunchtime swim. I started sea swimming at the beginning of lockdown and love it. It’s so therapeutic and energising. 

In the afternoon, there are usually a couple of Zoom meetings with agencies looking to work with us. We’ve always worked globally, but Zoom has created a real level playing field, so I’m as likely to be talking to agencies in Stockholm or New York, as in London or Manchester. I’ve also been working on finalising our Red Setter rebrand, which we’re getting close to launching. 

I finish at 5pm a couple of days a week to pick up my daughter from school and share this with my husband and very helpful mum! 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

It does. I didn’t think it would be possible pre-COVID. I was a big believer that the team had to be physically together to get the culture right and to achieve the results we do. COVID has changed all of that and our culture seems stronger than ever. Although I would never give up our lovely Brighton office, flexible working is a joy. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I love my work so I don’t really separate my ‘work’ and my ‘life’, however I do love that I now have more free time since I stopped travelling for work so much, and started working flexibly. 

I usually plan a week ahead and make sure I make room in my diary for things like sea swimming and DJing. Both are so much fun and get my head into a different place.

It’s amazing how much time has become available by not having to be on a train for meetings so often. I can swim before work, get my daughter to school and still be at a Zoom meeting by 9am if I choose.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

I’ve started going for a walk every day without my phone. I love feeling connected but the frenetic nature of scrolling through social media, news sites, and travel apps meant my mind was always on. 

I found it hard going out without my phone at first. I constantly had that impulse to check what’s going on now! Being without my phone is now a pleasure and a time to think for longer than a few minutes at a time.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m currently reading a book called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollen. It’s game changing how micro dosing can help with the treatment of things like mental health. It’s an eye-opening read. 

I have so many podcasts I listen to and especially love Debbie Millman’s Design Matters which really is one of the best and most comprehensive in the design world. 

I’m also excited to be the host of the new podcast ‘How I got started in Design’ which is from the Design Community Hub and will interview inspirational designers about the start of their careers. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I did have an Apple Watch, but thinking about the way it was tracking everything, I found it quite controlling and invasive and took it off after 6 months. How is this data going to be used in the future?

But I do love AirPods (equally essential for podcasts on-the-go and for Zoom meetings).  

I also rely heavily on the Magic Seaweed app for telling me if it’s a good day for sea swimming. If the conditions are right, I’ll be in. With sea swimming it’s so important to do what you’re comfortable with, not your friends, and to always check the conditions. 

I’m a big fan of the New York Times app. We have a lot of US based clients so keeping a close eye on business, culture and politics is really important. But I especially love its cooking app. I decided that if I couldn’t travel to New York for business, I’d cook like I was in New York instead. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

I often joke about Beyoncé with my husband. She has the same number of hours in the day. If she can do it, you can. 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I had a recent epiphany. My daughter was swearing into the Brownies and the part ‘always think of others before yourself’ caught my attention. 

I used to put everyone else first, but only recently came to the realisation that it probably wasn’t a great approach to life. 

Whereas if you’re happy, by proxy you often find others around you will also be happy. I think doing what makes you happy, whether that’s spending time with family, indulging in a favourite pastime, partying, whatever it is, it’s so important to be true to yourself and that in itself brings great balance to life. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.