Home Sustainability Have you heard? – The future of Design is Circular!

Have you heard? – The future of Design is Circular!

we know about the new, critically required and significantly relevant term ‘Circular design’?

For more than a decade now, the world has been making conscious efforts to create, manufacture, utilize and adopt Eco-friendly & Sustainable materials to help reduce the impact on our environment with its rapidly depleting ecosystem. But there is much more to it than just manufacturing and usage of Eco-friendly products or practices. There is a broader, more holistic concept which directly feeds into Sustainable practices and Economy.

In this article we will introduce you to the future of design – a concept known as ‘Circular Design’, which not only incorporates usage of sustainable methods & products but also involves a much broader level of thinking on Regeneration and Creation of multiple lifecycles for every single material utilized and its impact on the economy as well.

Circular Design and creation of Circular Economy

Circular Design is inherited from the term ‘Circular Economy’  which indicates that Design plays a crucial role in advancing modern business & economy. Circular design is being referred

to as a philosophy and mind-set which to a large extent is widely followed and discussed in various Design & Sustainability related forums . Recently this topic became the centre stage discussion point at the renowned Milan Design show 2018/2019 as well. While it’s a concept broadly revolving around materials and their lifecycle, it is deeply rooted to the beginning of any Design thought process itself.  Circular design in turn helps to accelerate a more circular economy as well. Everything boils down to achieving a higher economic success but in this case, with a stronger focus on reducing the harmful impacts on the Environmental.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has teamed up with design and consulting firm IDEO to create a guide that helps businesses design for the circular economy.  Called The New Circular Design Guide, the online resource is aimed at “innovators, entrepreneurs, disruptors and corporate change-makers” who want to better understand and implement circular innovations within everyday operations.  The guide was originally unveiled at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos 2017, and highlighted again at this year’s event where the issue of plastic waste was high on the agenda.

“Design is integral in the shift to the circular economy,” said Ellen MacArthur, former round-the-world yachtswoman and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a UK-registered charity that aims to accelerate a transition to the circular economy. “There’s only so much we can do with products, services and systems based on the ‘take, make, dispose’ model,” added MacArthur.

The basic principle of circular design is to treat each element as a nutrient & not as a waste. Every little element used to construct a larger product / service / system needs to be regenerated at the end of its life cycle. Every material can have multiple lifecycles and shouldn’t be disposed after single use.

Circularity is a mindset

The role of design is now extending the form and function of the product or service into contributing to building innovative solutions that emphasize wise consumption of natural resources. It’s design’s responsibility to build a strategic plan that considers reusing or recycling the materials used in production.

The same principle can be applied to any material utilized in any form of design – spatial design/ architectural design/ product design etc. While designers can propose and incorporate such concepts, it also needs to be accepted by clients and consumers. Everyone involved in the creation of any space or related products needs to be made aware and educated on the benefits of this design approach. While we see the western geographies have adopted this design style change quite rapidly, most of us (in India) are still struggling to educate the fraternity on the basic philosophy of Circular thinking . The design community along with the manufacturers of most modular & sustainable products need to take an active role in educating the consumers on a regular basis to not only think Innovation but apply them in real time as well.

Innovate to think Circular 

Thankfully we are seeing examples of Architects/

Designers/ manufacturers introducing new and innovative

concepts of how we can become more circular in our

Design and thinking process.


In a recent conversation with Ar.Fancy George, she

shared a live example from a recent project completed

by KGD Architecture for a large global search engine

company. The company recently acquired a fully fitted-out

office facility and decided to redesign the entire premises

with new products which included procurement of new furniture, desks, chairs, lights, equipment etc. The architect introduced innovative ideas of upcycling and reusing existing materials such as plywood table tops from office desks to create partitions, book cases & planter boxes. Existing artwork frames were reused with newer images, books were returned to their rightful place in their bookshelves. AC Grills were reused along with many other items with minor modifications and refurbished through their inhouse contractors. They were successful in reusing approx. 45% of the existing materials to create new and unique products. This innovative thinking proved to not only successfully apply the Circular design philosophy but also help save on the overall budget thus supporting the concept of Circular economy as well.

Embrace the change 

As part of  the Design Fraternity , the responsibility lies with us to embrace this innovative thinking and guide the upcoming generation, to think and incorporate Circular Design in every facet of our projects. We need to start with 2 simple rules before embarking on any design:

  • Think of any creative strategy to redesign / repurpose the smallest of materials, & avoid having them end up in landfills.
  • Ensure that at least 15-20% of any project resource is planned with it’s regeneration/reuse in mind. Materials such as wood, metal, glass etc. are the easiest to repurpose after usage.

And to end with this thought from the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ Pioneers –

Michael Braungart and William McDonough

”Once you understand the destruction taking place, unless you do something to change it, even if you never intended to cause such destruction, you become involved in a strategy of tragedy. You can continue to be engaged in that strategy of tragedy or you can design and implement a strategy of change”