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.

Circular Design Workshop

Designing waste out of products as part of the Circular Rs framework is where the circular economy really comes into play. 

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.

Design Value Chain

Circular design principles provide value throughout the whole manufacturing, sales and use process for both businesses and customers. To maximise value and profit, companies can consider adapting their manufacturing/sales model to retrieve assets (products) through reverse logistics or Product-as-a-Service business models. Or seek alternative revenue streams to keep customers engaged and loyal such as providing upgrades or repair services.

See Reverse Logistics and Business


Product Design

Design Decisions

Material Decisions

Life Cycle Assessment

Customer Value Proposition

During the design process, the customer value proposition and business models for all future use cycles should be consciously built into the product. Designing circular customer value propositions requires designers to also consider several different strategies and their consequences on the product and service system design. For example in a Product-as-a-Service business model “Your responsibility as a (supplier) of the product does not stop after the sale. You have to keep that in mind as a designer of the product”². 

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Design + Business for the Circular Economy

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

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 used³. 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

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

4. “Circular by Design: Products in the Circular Economy”, EEA Report, No. 6/2017

5.”The Role of Product Design in Circular Economy Business Model” by Andrea Urbinati, Vito Manfredi Latilla and Davide Chiaroni, presented at The ISPIM Innovation Conference, Sweden on 17-20 June 2018

6. Factsheet Design icon: Eucalyp from Flaticon

Image References: