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 Multiple Use-Cycles, Design for Exchange, and Design for Circular Match-Making. 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. It highlights opportunities to make products last longer and be useful and attractive to people for a prolonged time.

When products are circulated through multiple use-cycles and used by a sequence of users additional design challenges can be identified. For example challenges that are associated with diverse user needs, shortened use-cycles, and long product histories, can be tackled with the strategy Design for Multiple Use-Cycles. Addressing these challenges can help make each new circular consumption process relevant and attractive for people.

A user perspective also highlights the importance of facilitating people’s obtainment and clearance processes, i.e. facilitating the process of product exchange. Practicalities that are, say, related to assessing pre-used products and circular offers, carrying out an exchange, and communicating with other agents can be addressed with the strategy Design for Exchange.

Apart from facilitating the obtainment and clearance processes, one can also address design challenges related to the interactions between two subsequent users using the strategy Design for Circular Match-Making. This strategy deals with opportunities to help people communicate, trust each other, and make and compare deals.