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Circular Economy

How are circular products designed?

Circularity must be taken into account in all aspects of the design if a product is to be circular. Circular design concerns the function of a product, the origin of the raw materials and energy to fabricate it, the way it is used, repaired and discarded, and the business model within which all this happens. With physical products, however, it starts with the strategy with which the product is designed.

If a company wants to work with circular design, CIRCO can assist the company with expertise and coaching. With the support of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works, CIRCO assists professionals in the first step in the circular design of a product. For more information, please visit: https://www.circonl.nl/international/

6 design strategies

Below are 6 strategies to achieve a circular design. These strategies are taken from the book “Products that Last” by Bakker et al. (2014). Read the complete book for more information about circular design:

1. Design to bond

For many designers, this strategy is a holy grail. They investigate the way in which users develop a certain connection with the object they use. The complexity of bonding and attachment is a major challenge.

2. Design for durability

This strategy is based on defining optimal product reliability. It is a well-defined technical area. Ideally, the lifespan of a product should be consistent with its economic and stylistic lifespan.

3. Design for compatibility

This strategy is constantly evolving. Digital technology, for example, often depends on compatibility with other systems. There is an interesting field of tension between standardization and personalization.

4. Design for ease of maintenance and repair

Maintenance and repair are currently shared between the original manufacturer, repair service providers and users. Users are treated in a rather patronising way. Repair is often not allowed, under penalty of loss of warranty.

5. Design to update

This strategy means that there are opportunities to change a product. Adapting to different functions through partial exchange is common, but less often the product is upgraded. Digital technology in particular is developing so rapidly that the possibility of upgrading is limited. Value propositions would have to change for this.

6. Design for disassembly and reassembly

This strategy is partly new. Easy disassembly is a classic requirement for sustainability. The ability to reassemble is similar to the previous three strategies, but can also consist of assembly with parts of other products to become something else.