It seemed like an obvious fit.

Leading experts in circular economy collaborating with the world’s leading design and innovation firm – yes please! At both the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO,  we feel passionately that design and designers (in all their forms) are crucial to bringing the Circular Economy to life. Trying, failing, learning, & iterating from day 1 is what's going to shift the needle.

We've made this guide as a call to get you involved and help us to build this movement towards a better future for everyone. It’s currently in beta, so we’d love your feedback.

Reframe your thinking.


Design has always been about exploring the ambiguous and learning by doing, so the methods on this site are biased towards action. They will guide you as you take your first steps into building a new future.

We don’t have the answers about the future: no one does. But we hope this guide helps you reframe your mindset, ask the right questions, take on projects, and start exploring the extraordinary possibilities.

Keep zooming in and out.

Design for users, stakeholders, and the systems they’re part of

Traditional manufacturing is wasteful, because it focuses exclusively on the end user. The circular economy mindset looks much wider, to consider everyone who extracts, builds, uses, and disposes of things.

By zooming out from users, to consider the wider network of stakeholders, we can unlock value at every stage of the process. As a designer, that includes building feedback loops into your work; knowing the life cycle of materials you use; collaborating with other industry stakeholders; and considering unintended consequences.

Practise these new perspectives.


Widen your view of user-centredness

When designing for the circular economy, it’s about researching and understanding the needs of all users or usages of the materials within the system.


Reimagine viability

In the circular economy, growing your slice of the pie may mean growing the pie. Designing reusable materials will create new value by enabling your own, as well as other businesses, to reuse those materials.


Design for evolution

We used to design 'finished' products. Now, we should think of everything we design like software – products and services that can constantly evolve, based on the data we get through feedback. Design is never done.


Build a strong narrative

In the circular economy, designers more than ever, have to change the mindsets of those around them. By developing compelling stories and proof-of-concept, we can widen our sphere of influence.

The Circular Design Guide is a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO. To give your feedback, email us directly or join our linkedin group.

Copyright © Ellen MacArthur Foundation + IDEO 2017.