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Circular design in detail

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

The most important feature of the Circular economy is designing, not the current way, but designing the waste out, which means no/lesser wastes are being created in the first place. The truth is waste is no product of nature but rather a result of human design decisions.

Waste is the loss of not only material but also embedded energy, resources, and labor invested in creating the products.

So what is design?

Design is the creation with intention - Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Original from the Latin word "designare" design is not about creating pretty things but combining art and science to best serve a purpose.

The problem is that our world today is designed based on the linear mind to be disposable. Although this system has been able to provide us with affordable products on a mass scale, it is also the root causing many problems we face today: inequality, poverty, ecological collapsing, climate changes...

In a circular world, our society, our products, and our services all need to be redesigned in a system thinking way. The results of interventions designed to change the system may not always be predictable. But applying systems thinking is the way for us to inform circular design, contextualize problems, identify opportunities for systems change, and build the capacity for learning and improving as new information and technology become available.

In the broadest sense, it is a creative, cooperative endeavor for designers to add to the diversity of solutions required to transform economic systems on a large scale.

"It starts with a critique of how some of the things that we've valued about design — it being user-centred, agile and iterative, and problem-solving — are no longer adequate if we want to transition to a different world. Instead, we need to act more collectively or planet-centred, be bold and transformative, and see ourselves as stewards of continually changing situations."

Cat Drew, Chief Design Officer, Design Council

THERE principles of circular design


How does the circular design work?

How can we design the waste out?

  • Design for attachment and trust: a design for attachment and trust allows consumers to bond with their product, like a childhood teddy bear that nobody will ever discard. In the end, this type of design extends the lifespan of products.

  • Design for durability: a design for durability to increase product reliability and decrease the possibility of failure. Another interesting example of this design type in the clothing world is Patagonia. However, this type of design has to match with the economic and stylistic life span of products because there is no point in terms of cost and material resources consumption to design an extremely durable product for one-time use.

  • Design for standardization and compatibility: design product parts to be interchangeable to increase the repair and life extension and be available and compatible with other products – Fairphone. Additionally, modular systems are easier to customize and adapt to users' varying and forever needs, preventing products from becoming obsolete and ensuring they are kept in use for long periods.

  • Design for maintenance and repair: design a product that increases the ease of product maintenance by reducing and limiting the number of components or simplifying how parts are connected.

  • Design for adaptability and upgradability: This design aims for future product modification, which allows a product's function to change over time, especially for technological developments.

  • Design for ease of disassembly and reassembly: a design for ease of disassembly and reassembly to increase reparability and reusability and make recycling easier.

  • Design for recycling: A design for recycling by using specific design techniques and avoiding the use of mixed materials to increase the ability of material recoverability in the recycling process.

  • Design for dematerialization: a design for dematerialization by finding solutions to deliver utility using the minimum amount of material possible such as applying the advance of technology to reducing packaging or using nanomaterials, or developing virtual offerings like streaming music/movies.


  1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation -

  2. Circular Economy - Sustainable material management

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I started Sustainability House with the goal of offering readers a glimpse into my thoughts and experiences. What started out as weekly posts have evolved into a dynamic site packed with information about various topics that are near and dear to me. Take some time to explore the blog and see for yourself what makes you curious and eager.


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