Chuk Ikéh


From the re-evaluation of product design methodology to the complete overhaul of longstanding business models, today’s forward-thinking designers are starting to look at how to solve tomorrow’s problems in a more responsible way.

Early studies reveal some interesting insights that may have ignited this key shift. It is reported that three out of every four decisions made regarding final materials and manufacturing processes take place during a product’s design phase, whilst over 80% of the ecological and economic costs are incurred before it’s even manufactured.

What this tells us is that design has a pivotal role to play in the way that products and services are made and used, and should therefore be equally crucial in catalyzing a transition towards a more resource-efficient economy.

As a result, a new model has been born — one that strives to cut down on the misappropriation of energy and the mismanagement of resources whilst simultaneously seeking, wherever possible, to repurpose, refurbish and repair products, as well as reimagining the materials and processes from which they were conceived.


The Circular Economy might well be the launchpad of a new design trend but it is already somewhat established as a way of thinking among a growing number of designers. In its boiled-down essence, Circular Design is about:

  • ‘Borrowing’ resources instead of over-exploiting them
  • Designing products and services in such a way that their components can be reused or reapplied in new products or services

Over the past decade or so, we’ve already seen how design can be applied to the Circular Economy principles and make its mark on the world of digital services, particularly with Products-as-a-Service. It’s no longer necessary, for example, to own a car or a holiday home, and generate the extra resource waste that can come with it. This is thanks to platforms that put the emphasis on access instead of ownership (Airbnb, Zipcar, etc.)

Yet these are merely the early stages of a design movement and mindset that will surely gather momentum over the next few years.


“Gone are the days of sustainable design. Now we have to learn to think about life cycles, and designers have a key role to play.”

— Nat Hunter, Co-Director of Design at The RSA

Eco, Sustainable and Circular design may share similarities, all being models that champion positive environmental impact as part of design thinking, but that doesn’t mean they’re one and the same.

Circular Design challenges us to question whether a simple substitution of non-recyclable materials for recyclable alternatives is truly enough, or whether we can and should, in fact, think of ways to bend our current linear model to reconnect the beginning and the end of a product’s life.

It doesn’t only apply to product manufacturing but also to the respective designers and brands connected to those products. It will require a deeper relationship with consumers and end users to ensure that, instead of being accelerators of design waste, they become actively involved in the design reincarnation.


There’s a wider conversation beginning to take shape among designers that ask important questions such as: “What if we build products, services and experiences that are not only beneficial to businesses and their customers, but also to the planet in which they exist?”

We’re proud to add some fuel to this debate at this year’s Fjord Madrid Kitchen. On the 8th June, we’ll be joined by three thought leaders and influencers in this area, including staunch circular economy evangelist Nicola Cerantola. From system thinkers to business designers and product makers, we’ll investigate how we can – and why we must – harness the power of design to create a more circular economy.

Join us on Twitter and Instagram on the night to find out what some of the influential voices in this field have to say.


Chuk Ikéh

More Stories from Fjord