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The design economy – the circular economy

  • by JW

Looking at the way we create products, services and systems.


What is the Design Economy – and how can it “build back better and create a more just, healthy and regenerative world”? This week, the Design Council looks at the scale of environmental design in the UK in what it calls the “green skills gap” – whilst the Ellen McCarthy Foundation considers a specific example of overcoming design challenges to make business circular in a paddle board business. And as for architecture and the circular economy, there are lots of emerging practical ideas on how to “design for disassembly“, for example.

In a recent ‘deep dive’ on design and the circular economy, the Ellen McCarthy Foundation defined design as “the way we create products, services and systems – the mechanism by which we shape the material environment around us to meet our needs and desires”:

Crucially, when something is designed, important decisions are made that impact how it is manufactured, how it is used, and what happens when it is no longer needed or wanted. It is exceedingly difficult to go back and undo the effects of those decisions if they are later found to produce undesirable consequences.

The piece dives into all sorts of aspects around both the design economy and the circular economy – from moving from products to services to designing products that last to reducing the resource requirements of designs – with the Butterfly Diagram visualising the Circular Economy showing how it can be done: