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Publication

The Hamburg Principles of Circular Design

The genesis of the principles as a co-creative process

The Circular Design Deep Dive event was organised within the project INTERFACER in collaboration with the Fab City Hamburg and the Design Zentrum Hamburg. The conference consisted of two evenings of lectures and audience discussions as well as four workshops and input sessions that took place during the day. During the three days (June 22 to 24, 2022), five principles for Circular Design were developed in a co-creative process.

The principles were developed by numerous international experts, speakers and other participants of the CDDD. As a working aid, the organizers have developed 15 short theses on Circular Design based on suggestions from the speakers at the event. These were presented to the audience on the first evening and their feedback was obtained. Theses, feedback and the presentations of the speakers served as starting points for the exchange of content in the workshops. The original theses were discussed in numerous groups, deepened and partly brought together.

A diagram of the derivation of the 5 principles based on the initial input of the experts.

In addition, the intensive group work promoted the transfer of knowledge between the participants and their networking. In the final presentation of the CDDD, five principles were finally presented as concrete results of the workshops. The participants created four posters and a video for their presentation:

After the event, the organizers reflected on the principles again and finally revised them in consultation with interested workshop participants. The result of this process is The Five Hamburg Principles of Circular Design that are now available. Above all, they should inspire designers on how to design, produce and establish circular products on the market. However, the lectures and discussions of the CDDD have shown that circular production and marketing alone are not enough if the design should support a sustainable transformation of economic systems. Therefore, the principles go beyond that and take into account further aspects that are relevant to establishing circular products as part of a sustainable economy. In this respect, the Five Hamburg Principles of Circular Design are an important supplement to other relevant work aids, such as the Circular Design Rules of the Institute of Design Research Vienna or the practice-oriented introduction to Circular Design of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The five Hamburg Principles of Circular Design

1. Design for nature, design from nature.

Everything is interconnected and you are a part of the ecosystem, too. Think in bionics, using nature’s construction plans as a source for new, innovative design ideas. Design in (Fibonacci) spirals rather than circles, moving from smaller to larger, from infinitesimal to infinite. Nature is modular by design; each part is reused effectively without waste.

2. Measure the impact of your design.

Around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during the design process. Use impact-measuring tools from the beginning of the design process and let the hard facts inform your design. Simple life cycle assessment tools such as Ecolizer, Sustainable Minds, Future Materials Bank, and Statista can help you make better design decisions and use them to convince your clients.

3. Open-source collaboration at local and global levels enables design solutions for all.

Build co-creative communities on a global scale, connecting local ecosystems for production enabled by digital tools and distributed designs. Elicit feedback and contributions from a broad range of people with a variety of technical abilities. Share knowledge as a global common and use it for your local solution.

4. Inspire authentic emotional connection through engaging stories.

Highlight the additional value of circular products by communicating the genuine story and process behind them in a way that inspires and creates emotional value. Engage individual beliefs and wishes of people and this way encourage their long-term involvement in circular design topics.

5. Push for a political framework that levels competition.

Circular products can only compete on the market if linear product externalities* are considered. Market dynamics alone will not convince manufacturers to make a circular transition. We must lobby for responsible legislation to level the playing field accordingly and encourage companies to go circular.
*“Externalities can be considered as unpriced goods involved in either consumer or producer market transactions. Air pollution from motor vehicles is one example.” Link to citation

Authors (in alphabetical order)

Aaron Wieland, Abhishek Sharma, Aleksandra Zdravkovic, Almut Nagel, Anastasiia Nakaliuzhna, Anna Canisius, Anna Wildhack, Annika Fitz, Anton Molina, Arthur Moree, Chia-Lin Liao, Chintan Patel, Christoph Hinske, Daniel Pietschmann, Dominik Saubke, Eric Pfromm, Eileen Huang, Elena Ianeselli, Eric Pfromm, Helge Schritt, Jacqueline Bertlich, Jenny Lee, Jo Jung, Juan Manuel Grados Luyando, Julia Nordholz, Katrin Uphoff, Kim Tatum, Kimia Bahari, Korbinian, Nida-Ruemelin, Larita Inthisone, Lucas Millheim, Lucas de Man, Mareile Tempel, Marion Real, Mayte Lopez, Michael Ziehl, Mónica Blanes, Monika Zabel, Nadine Scharsitzke, Oskar Lidtke, Paola Jacomél Laidane, Paul Stawenow, Peter Unzeitig, Raphael Guillou, Raphael Haus, Rasmus Taun, Sanjana Mahesh Adi, Sarah Bürger, Sirous Tehrani, Stella Buggenthin, Svenja Bremen, Tarini Sharma, Teresa Pape, Theophanu Klappert, Thomas Ringleben-Fricke, Tukki Neumann, Ursula Tischner, Wolf Kühr

Photos Dawid Jakubowski


A cooperation of INTERFACER (Fab City Hamburg e.V. and Hamburger Institut für Wertschöpfungssystematik und Wissensmanagement UG) and the Design Zentrum Hamburg, with the support of the Fab City Foundation. Funded by the European Union in the framework of the INTERFACER project.

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