Circular Design


Circular Design redesigns products to prolong life, minimize waste and potential loss of technical (man-made) materials. This means company’s can design a product that has certain functionalities to ensure components can be reused, materials can be reprocessed and breakages can be repaired. Here are some examples of how designers and entrepreneurs develop and exploit goods, helping reduce material (natural and man-made resources) and energy consumption over time¹.

1. Design for Product Attachment and Trust
Creating products that will be loved, liked or trusted longer

2. Design for Product Durability
Developing products that can take wear and tear without breaking down

3. Design for Standardization & Compatibility
Creating products with parts or interfaces that fit other products as well

     See all our Design Case Studies

4. Design for Ease of maintenance and Repair
Enabling products to be maintained in tip-top condition

5. Design for Upgradability & Adaptability
Allowing for future expansion and modification

6. Design for Dis- and Reassembly
Ensuring products and parts can be separated and reassembled easily


Product Design

Design Decisions

Material Decisions

Life Cycle Assessment

Circular Design Workshop

Designing waste out of products as part of the 9Rs framework is where the circular economy really comes into play. Visit the Circular Design Workshop page to find out what is covered in this class.

We have a selection of workshops to choose from, starting with our ½ day mini series for busy people or the deep-dive 1 or 2 day workshops. Visit The Nine Steps Towards a Circular Business® to review the current selection of workshops on offer.

Circular Design + Circular Business


The aim of good design is, hopefully, destined for use in our everyday lives. Traditionally products were designed for sale in our old linear economic systems where they were simply products to be used and then discarded at end-of-life. As we move into Circular systems, design now takes on a whole new relationship with business. The design of products has the potential to become the business model.

In the opposite Business Model diagram Circular design principles can be included into almost every stage.

1. In the early stages of product design, the focus is on how durable, repairable, and how easy it is to dis- and reassembly and upgrade.

2. During the manufacturing process, raw materials can include materials recovered for reprocessing through recycling collection systems or returned via reverse logistics.

3. The value proposition of the product to the customer (ease of repair, durable, take-back incentive, etc) can be communicated via a company’s sales and marketing efforts.

The Guidelines for Design


In order to describe a circular product design framework a set of definitions needed to be developed that are all inclusive, fully applicable to product design and with a single interpretation of the terminology used². The Butterfly diagram (opposite) has been adapted from the original Butterfly diagram to be more reflective for Circular Product Design Modelling (Click on the image or text to expand the Circular Product Design Butterfly Diagram).

All the components of the Circular Product Design Model is explained in the Table below.

Future Proof
Last long- Performance
- Reliability
- Durability
Use long- Roadmap fit
- Upgradability
- Adapatability
- Timeless design
- Anticipate legislation (e.g toxicity, disassembly time)
Connections- Quick and easy disconnect
- Limit use and diversity of fasteners
- Limit use and diversity of tools
Product architecture- Simplify product architecture
- Allow ease of access to components
- Clarity of disassemble sequence
Maintenance- Ease of cleaning
- Ease of repair / upgrade
- Allow onsite repair and upgrade
Lifetime prognosticsOnline monitoring for quality, testing, maintenance and billing
Modularity- Use modular components
- Standardize interface
- Back- & Forwards compatability
Reliability assessment- Allow for easy read out of components
(Reverse) Logistics- Product can easily be returned
- Spare part harvesting
- Local production
Materials- Avoid the use of (non-compliant) coatings
- Limit the number of different materials
- Only use materials that can be recycled
- Use preferred / pure materials
Electronics- Get PCB out in one piece
- Easy/fast detection of materials
- Use SMD components
Connections- Avoid fixed connections
- Break down by (shredding / disassembly) to:
-- Pieces of uniform composition
-- Pieces of relatively large size (>1cm)

Knowledge Centre


1. “Products That Last – Product Design for Circular Business Models” by C.A. Bakker,‎ M.C. den Hollander, E. van Hinte,‎ Y. Zijlstr, 2014.

2. “A Product Design Framework for a Circular Economy’ by van den Berg M.R. and Bakker C.A.

3. Infinity icon made by Daniel Bruce from

4. Remake icon made by Baby and Toys from