Circular Design
Gestaltung der Kreislaufwirtschaft

Circular Design - Definition

Since 2014 the transition to a new and regenerative Circular Economy has become a declared objective of the EU. The new regenerative Circular Economy requires new design principles. Tangible products are the most obvious parts of a changing economy, but we also need to redefine and redesign services, business models, exchange relationship, markets and many more aspects. Unlike the old German recycling economy concept of the 80s, the new regenerative Circular Economy does not limit itself to recycling and disposal of residual and toxic waste, but focuses on designing cycles for biological and technical materials (nutrients) from the beginning.

The ratinale: there is no waste anymore, but only recycling of nutrients.

The goal: no more resource depletion and exploitation, but resource use in cycles.

This transformation to a regenerative Circular Economy is a macro-economic project as ambitious as the creation of the single European market. The “Growth within” report, the latest report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), McKinsey and SUN, highlights that the European economy’s value creation model is surprisingly wasteful. "On average, Europe uses materials only once" (Growth within, 2015, p. 12).

The idea of Circular design was introduced in EMF’s first publication:

"Circular design, i.e. improvements in materials selection and product design (standardisation/modularisation of components, purer materials flows, and design for easier disassembly), lie at the heart of a circular economy."

Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2012): Towards the Circular Economy Vol. 1: an economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition, p.9.

Beginning of 2015, Circular Design was introduced as a line of research at the Kuchl Campus by Dr. Sonja Eser.

Designing circles requires innovative process workflows in design, a broadened systemic view as well as a selection of new working methods. The new research line Circular Design at the FH Salzburg focuses on the implementation of core design strategies, such as Cradle to Cradle, into internal processes. Therefore effective design strategies, concepts and tools are collected. Furthermore it identifies and develops effective and impactful changes within product development processes relevant in practice.

Social movements such as Open Source Hardware and Collaborative Consumption provide important impulses for this work. The aim of the research is to identify innovative movements that can accelerate product cycles and take inspiration for design.

Circular Design requires a widening focus from the product to material flows, production processes and conditions, as well as aspects of use and reuse. It needs an extended systems view as well as profound understanding of ecological principles.

Design for diversity, a focal point of Circular Design can be helpful to develop environmentally friendly products.

The role of Circular Design at the FH Salzburg is to actively support the design of this regenerative Circular Economy.

Furthermore, skills and core competencies are taught in the circular design courses at the FH Salzburg.