Methods and mindsets for circular design

Methods and mindsets for circular design


Part of a new MEX series highlighting compelling case studies which catch our eye. Follow @mexfeed or by signing-up for the weekly email newsletter.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO collaborated to produce a detailed, practical guide to adopting circular design principles.

We’re pleased to select it as our MEX case study of the week, although in truth it is rather more extensive than a single study.

The Circular Design Guide describes 24 methods, breaking them down into easy-to-follow steps and linking them with real world examples of the principles in action, often at large companies. This includes how to:

  • Achieve circular buy-in
  • Embed feedback mechanisms
  • Understand regenerative thinking

MacArthur’s foundation, established in 2010, is dedicated to accelerating a worldwide transition to a circular economy, where products, services and systems are designed to be natively restorative and regenerative.

I remember hearing Ellen MacArthur describe her inspiration for creating the foundation during a Pecha Kucha talk organised by our friends at Made In Brunel. She described how seeing the extent of manufactured waste floating in the middle of the wild ocean during her celebrated career as a professional yachtswoman awakened her to how human activity was impacting even the last great wilderness of the high seas.

The foundation has made extraordinary progress by engaging some of the world’s largest companies and helping them expand their definition of ‘capital’ to include natural and social resources as well as economic. In doing so, it has created a mandate for the advantages of the circular economy and backed it up with methods and evidence.

IDEO likely needs little introduction to readers of this journal, having established its reputation as pioneer of both design thinking and design doing over a number of decades. In addition to sharing some of its methods, IDEO has also described the mindset of user-centredness required for a circular design approach.

The MEX community has been thinking about this theme for some time under the auspices of Pathway #7, an ongoing initiative to explore the role of digital sustainability, both by improving the circularity of digital products themselves and the overall role digital technology can play in helping humans live in a more sustainable way. Explore MEX Pathway #7 for further talks, articles and principles on this theme.

Part of a new MEX series highlighting compelling case studies which catch our eye. Follow @mexfeed or by signing-up for the weekly email newsletter.

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