A Circular Design process for our projects

Lately I have been putting together what I am experiencing in the field of circular design and ethical design, trying to structure a logical process in which not to leave anything behind.

Here’s where I got to.

To have a circular and responsible approach, I propose that you go through 4 stages.

The inspiration comes from the design thinking stages, but I have reworked the terms and added some actions we don’t usually think about.

Furthermore, I voluntarily wanted to avoid representing these stages through a double diamond because, as Alastair Somerville rightly points out, diverging in order to converge is not necessarily a good idea.

1. Research and discover

In this first phase, the goal is to recover all the elements, whether it is user research, marketing research, technological research, research of environmental data.

To make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, make sure to:

  • Challenge the brief – Does the idea come from a human need? Or is it purely business-oriented? What principles does it enhance?
  • Map the stakeholders – Take into account the point of view of users, but also non-users, partners, non-humans, communities and persona non grata.
  • Understand systems – Examine your own corporate and team system, but also the complexity around the concept you are designing for.
  • Identify trends – What happened to similar technologies? Are there any social or environmental trends that may influence your design? What do people say about it?
  • Identify harms – Who could be hurt from your technology? Physically, mentally, in terms of privacy or safety, etc.
  • Search for innovation – Given the context, what approaches may facilitate innovation for this concept? Frugal, inspired by nature, design-thinking,…

2. Define the assets

Starting from all the mass of information recovered in the previous phase, it is now a question of converging to make a selection, establish a direction, define a perimeter.

Make sure to:

  • Choose your questions – You will answer to throughout your process: How to…? Why…? What does it take to…? Etc.
  • Set your targets – Think about diversity and dissent, focus on behaviours and mindsets rather than specific social profiles.  
  • Align stakeholders – Make sure your personae as well as your team members share values and agree upon goals.
  • Identify opportunities and outcomes – Which direction to go? What is the vision? In what form will you materialize your concept? 

3. Explore the possibilities

This phase is an opening towards the thousand possibilities, a moment of generating ideas during which the whole system and not just the product must be taken into account.

  • Anticipate externalities – What will happen at launch? What effects will it have in society and on the environment, in the short as in the long term? Any rebound effects?
  • Explore systemic interventions – Map causes and effects, identify the most effective leverages and design strategies to act upon them.
  • Evaluate impact & efficacy – Analyse the lifecycle of your concept, look for alternative ways to reduce impacts.
  • Imagine possible futures – Explore future scenarios according to different trends, values and scales.

4. Deliver an ethical system

In the last phase, it is a question of selecting, translating, giving shape to the intervention ideas previously generated, to then measure and test over time.

  • Define the ideal experience – Represent the system of your concept, determine the MVP, script your preferable future.
  • Design for circularity, justice and inclusivity – Translate inputs from the previous phases in a fully consistent value-sensitive user experience.
  • Identify partners – Explore responsible partnerships that will help you to produce, distribute, manage or dismiss your service.
  • Measure outcomes – Set mutually destructive KPIs to measure the success of your concept, interview stakeholders, check on energy consumption, search for unpredicted impacts to correct.

Hi! I am a creative designer focused on circular economy and positive change. Find more about me on