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Dawn Clark, principal, NBBJ

The jet-setting green queen has made it her mission to promote planet-friendly practices in retail design around the world.



You’ve designed stores around the world. What’s the difference between shoppers in Chicago and Jakarta?

Energy levels. Indonesia is developing a middle class with economic and political stability and a taste for design, luxury and fashion. U.S. shoppers are weary, with saturated exposure to marketing and availability of goods, and they’re worried about the economy. They’re seeking new levels of inspiration and resonance with deeper connections to shared values through what they choose to buy.

What’s the same?

There is a universal language of shopping. It’s where communities live, connect with each other and trade with the world, whether that’s in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the Arab textile market in Singapore, the designer boutiques in Florence or Chandni Chowk in Delhi.

When people see my passport, they always say…”


“Wow, that’s the fattest passport I’ve ever seen!” I’ve had a third book bound into my passport. I’ve been working in Istanbul, Moscow, Singapore, Shenzen, Seoul, New Delhi, Dalian, Bhutan, Mexico, Beijing, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Germany, London and Dubai.

Which country would you leave the U.S. at the drop of a hat and move to?

How to choose one? I love Japan, Italy and Indonesia, but my son says he wants to finish high school in the Seattle area first.

What exotic dish have you tried that you’ll never try again?

Sea cucumber. It’s slimy and chewy.

You’re very eco-conscious. How do you reduce your own carbon footprint?


I walk to my office in downtown Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

But you also fly all over the world…

I need to cut down on the air miles, but I hope that my efforts on sustainable design around the world have a balancing impact.

What’s been the most exciting project you’ve worked on in the past year?

Right now, I’m working with an amazing, human-centered Brazilian company that is going carbon-neutral this year.

For retailers that haven’t taken the green plunge, what would you recommend as the first step?


Look at every aspect of your business against sustainable practices and set a goal to go neutral before 2030. I gravitate to design solutions that use natural light, and there have been lots of studies that show it’s good retail strategy.

What did you want to be when you were 5 years old?

A ballet dancer, a concert pianist, an Olympic athlete…and I always wanted to travel to exotic places.


Dawn Clark’s necessities for stress-free travel:

  • A bag of potpourri from Santa Maria Novella. “What it does to a smoky hotel room in Tokyo is magic!”
  • A Venus-scented travel candle from Archipelago Botanicals.
  • Less is more: “The more I travel, the less I pack. I’m hoping to evolve to maybe just a little shoulder bag.”

Photography: Tim Girvin, Seattle



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