Circular Design

Circular Design redesigns products to prolong life, minimise waste and potential loss of technical (man-made) materials. This means companies can design a product that has certain functionalities to ensure components can be reused, materials can be reprocessed and breakages can be repaired. As redesign is part of the Circular Rs, its importance cannot be underestimated. Yet all too often we focus on the design itself rather than the core skills designers should have to deliver circular outcomes. 

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The Circular Rs are part of the Circular Economy Foundation Course.

Redesign – An Economic Function of the Circular Economy

Circular design is all about the materials used, whatever we are talking about. 80-90% of a product’s environmental impacts are determined at the design and raw material/component production phase. In an ideal circular model, once a product has reached the end of its lifecycle, the materials are reclaimed and reused. 

The product and the company making the product also have no side effects on the users and their local environment – so no harmful chemicals in the products are released during use as by-products from manufacturing or the supply chain. Because of the different functional needs and expectations of objects, there is no definitive answer for something to be circular.  

Instead, a combination of concepts and principles is required to provide a toolkit of possibilities for every product to be able to last as long as possible and the ability for it to be broken down and either reused again in new products or components and materials being recycled for new purposes.

Download the fourth part – Redesign – An Economic Function PDF file.


Product Design

Design Decisions

Material Decisions

Life Cycle Assessment

Design Competencies for a Circular Economy

We believe circular design will be the magic enabler for the circular economy to gain more traction. Expanding a designer’s core competencies should be our focus rather than the art of design. “We made parts really cheap because we wanted to enable repairability so that people can just buy them for repair but that… (made it) really difficult to make any take-back program for them because there is no money to get back those parts”.

For example, in general designing circular solutions requires a level of business knowledge. “It has become clear to me how important the link is between the business aspect and the design. That the (product) design, is only a part of the challenge…It also has a lot to do with how your income and expenses, your revenue streams are structured.”

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In 2020, four researchers published a paper titled, ‘Circular Economy Competencies for Design‘. First, the researchers discovered that the emphasis on prolonged and extended use of products requires designers to master a range of additional skills such as Design for Recovery, Design for Multiple Use cycles and Circular Impact Assessment, etc. Second, they found systems thinking competency in practice, although in the literature it is mentioned as a relevant competency for design for a circular economy.

Lastly, methods and tools to address the identified competencies are largely lacking or are in a premature stage of development is design cirrculum. They concluded that design for a circular economy is an upcoming, independent field in the design for sustainability field that requires specific competencies, methods, and tools.

Fact Sheets

These Fact Sheets provide insights, trends and ideas on the circular economy in Asia and across the world. They are created for our #CircularOctober campaign. For the complete list, visit the Fact Sheets page; click on the image to download. 

Knowledge Centre

This section contains a wealth of information on research, design tools, how to design out waste, eco-design, modular design, product life extension, service, presentations, images and infographics. 


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. ‘Circular Economy: Competencies for Design’ by Deborah Sumter, Jotte de Koning, Conny Bakker and Ruud Balkenende, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, 2020

3. ‘What Does Circular Design Actually Mean‘ by Richard Ferris, Flokk Content Manager, 11 July 2022.

4. Factsheet Design icon: Eucalyp from Flaticon

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