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About Circular Design

see also our event: Circular Design Deep Dive

What is Circular Design

Circular Design is a central element in the value chain of a desired circular economy. Everything around us has been designed by someone: the clothes we wear, the furniture that surrounds us at home and at work, and the products we consume and feed ourselves with every day. In industries such as fashion and plastic packaging, for example, products and systems are now designed in such a way that more than 80% of material flows are destined for either landfill, incineration or end up as waste. “Once things are designed that way, it’s hard to undo: - We can’t unravel an omelette” written by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which was decisive in shaping the concept of Circular Design.

“When designers centre around the user, where do the needs and desires of the other actors in the system go?”

Circular Design allows us to prevent the creation of waste and pollution in the first place. It plays a crucial role in the implementation of circular economy strategy wherein we design a product in such a way that it can be reused at the later stage of its life cycle. The Circular Design is about a paradigm shift in that the perspective of design is no longer solely about the use of a product, but products should be designed for an ecosystem in which humans are just a part of it. Or as Kevin Slavin, professor at the MIT Media Lab, puts it: “When designers centre around the user, where do the needs and desires of the other actors in the system go? The lens of the user obscures the view of the ecosystems it affects.” Thus, it should be the designer’s responsibility to reformulate the focus from the perspective of the consumer’s use to the entire life cycle of the product. From a societal perspective, we could also speak of an anthropological shift, in that the human being as a consumer should be re-understood as simply an integral member and not the only member of our living ecosystem.

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