Circular Design: Making Resources Last

November 18, 2021

Everything that man-made was planned. This implies that each object was designed with the aim of serving a certain function in our lives, whether utilitarian or simply aesthetic. However, as society develops, so do disciplines. Product design today serves a variety of purposes other than simply creating products that are useful to the final consumer: the power of design is being used to guide an increasing number of strategic decisions, demonstrate how design choices can influence business models, and improve the performance of companies, among other things.

What is circular design?

Circular design takes product design to the next level. It seeks to reshape the linear form of manufacturing; extract resources > make products > discard consumed products — into a circular supply cycle renewing materials in circulation.

It is no longer enough to design a good product: The entire manufacturing chain needs to be redesigned  for efficiency, sustainability and circularity. Meaning the entire value cycle of the product needs to inform the product design. The product must be designed to make efficient use of resources and materials. The design needs to include a plan for reusing, repurposing and recycling the product to generate maximum utility and value from the item. It also needs to include sustainable manufacturing, repairing and distribution practices based on renewable energy and material circulation.

Design for slowing, narrowing and closing the resource loop

Circular Design emphasises the importance of retaining as much of the original product function as possible. Remanufacturing and refurbishment reduce resource consumption and provide customers with the option of purchasing new products, thus expanding the spectrum of client groups that may access the product and/or service. Recycling may help to close the resource loop by generating new resources while not negatively impacting the environment. Circular business models may also assist businesses in growing by encouraging innovation in how they meet customer demand. This has the potential to change the way products are manufactured. As-a-service models, for example, may boost the use of remanufactured equipment while also encouraging changes in product design by putting makers in the position of the owner rather than the seller.

How to incorporate circular design strategies

There is not a “one-fits-all” solution when it comes to designing products that create zero waste and pollution. Every product category and industry will need to develop different approaches and strategies. However, the principles of circular design opens a wide range of opportunities for sustainable innovation. One of the simplest ways to implement circular design is by designing products and distribution channels for sharing them. By replacing traditional retail with a sharing platform based on leasing or lending models, products can remain in circulation longer. During this time they will generate ongoing revenues for the producer while not risking being discarded after a single use by the consumer.

The Circular Economy Alliance offers an extensive Body of Knowledge covering Circular Design. It includes introductions to basic concepts, core strategies, as well as training on practical implementation procedures and real-world case studies. Learn how to design sustainable, resource efficient and competitive products by getting access now.

Submitted By: Alessio Franconi


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