Design, a simple tool to bolster the circular economy

To support the transition towards a circular economy, Wiithaa makes presentations and methodological tools available in Creative Commons, organizes events and conferences.

After presenting our definition of the circular economy in broad strokes, and showcasing the circular opportunities of 3D printing, here is the third presentation.

From waste to resources

We created this new chapter to help you understand the current approach to the issue of waste (on the waste production side as well as on the reuse side), and to present the concept of design. When we mention design, we are referring to design thinking and the ways in which this design process can be a powerful tool to create a more circular economy. In other words, we are introducing the notion of circular design. As a result, circular design goes beyond user experience and includes nature and the regenerative aspect of design.

What does design have to do with the circular economy?

In other words, it includes a systemic, creative, and positive thought process. Steve Job once said: “design is everything working well together.”. For our firm, this holistic approach includes the product, the user, but also the human and natural ecosystem that surrounds it.

Adopting a design thinking thought process in a circular approach means:
> changing our behavior towards waste to imagine new products and opportunities.
> designing safe, durable and resource efficient products.
> improving user experience as well as people’s well-being.

Here is a simple diagram to help you understand the relationship between design and the circular economy:

A Great recovery schemeLet’s think like nature

If you look at the circular economy as a system, then design opens the possibility of “closing the loop” at different levels. Indeed, it ensures value and resource use are optimized throughout the product’s lifecycle:

  • First, designing a durable product impacts the use of the product or component to increase the length of its “1st life”.
  • Designing services impacts user experience by creating a high-quality monitoring of the use. Therefore, it increases the rate of collection at the end of the lifecycle and client loyalty.
  • Then, designing for upcycling impacts the upcycling loop to create new uses.
  • Designing for raw material upcycling impacts reuse and manufacturing, therefore focusing on the industrial side of the process.
  • Finally, design is a powerful tool for change. It allows us to shape the path we are on. It ensures our specie and economy has a positive impact on our environment.

In our opinion, the pinnacle of design thinking is integrating the last missing piece to the thought process: nature. By doing this, we can reach a design practice which, beyond improving user experience, impacts our natural ecosystem’s resilience.

To sum up, Chris Grantham, Portfolio Manager at the IDEO firm, tells us about the importance of design in a circular economy. What he calls circular design. It is the second episode of activating the circular economy:

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