Design opportunities

Circular consumption processes necessitate new activities and decisions and also entail different everyday challenges compared to linear consumption processes. The activities, practicalities and challenges that circular consumption entail may not only make people consider it inconvenient, time-consuming, or in other ways undesirable to transfer products from use to use, they can also contribute to disrupting a circular flow altogether. Addressing such aspects through design is thus essential when aiming to develop new products and services more fit for circular consumption.

When people’s consumption processes is taken as the point of departure for design, new design opportunities to prolong product lifetimes, increase re-use, and decrease the resource throughput can be identified. We would like to highlight four main design strategies that can be used to make circular consumption processes more preferable to people: Design for extended use, Design for pre- and post-use, Design for exchange, and Design for multiple use-cycles. These strategies have the potential to not only increase product utilisation but also people’s need fulfilment. The strategies address different types of challenges, point to a variety of design opportunities, and are related to different phases of people’s consumption processes.

The strategy Design for Extended Use addresses challenges associated with a product’s lowered utility, attractiveness, and need-fulfilment over time. The strategy Design for Pre- and Post-Use addresses practicalities during the use phase that for instance are related to handling a (pre-used) product prior to and after use, and recognising that an unused product can be released to a new user. Apart from strategies related to the use phase, a user perspective also highlights the importance of facilitating people’s obtainment and riddance processes, i.e. facilitating the process of product exchange. Practicalities that are related to assessing pre-used products and circular offers, carrying out an exchange, and communicating with other agents can also be addressed with the strategy Design for Exchange. In addition to addressing challenges and practicalities in relation to the different phases of the circular consumption process, particular challenges that arise when products are circulated through multiple use-cycles can also be addressed. Such challenges, for example those associated with diverse user needs, shortened use-cycles, and long product histories, can be tackled with the strategy Design for Multiple Use-Cycles to make each new circular consumption process relevant and attractive for people. Examples of designs that make use of these four strategies are provided below.