Circular economy competencies for design

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This study addresses what competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) designers need in order to successfully design products and services for a circular economy. Existing literature, though sparse, has identified a number of circular economy competencies for design. Yet, a coherent overview is lacking. To complement the competencies found in the literature with insights from practice, we conducted 18 semi-structured interviews with design professionals. Our study identifies seven circular economy competencies for design: (1) Circular Impact Assessment, (2) Design for Recovery, (3) Design for Multiple Use Cycles, (4) Circular Business Models, (5) Circular User Engagement, (6) Circular Economy Collaboration, and (7) Circular Economy Communication. We used a general sustainability competencies framework to categorize our findings. Interestingly, we did not find evidence of the Systems Thinking competency in practice, although in the literature it is mentioned as a relevant competency for design for a circular economy. In addition, we found that methods and tools are still largely lacking or in a premature stage of development. We conclude that design for a circular economy can be seen as an upcoming, independent field within the sustainability domain, and that requires a specific set of competencies, methods, and tools. Our overview of circular economy competencies for design can guide the development of relevant methods and tools, circular economy-based design curricula, and training programs in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • design education
  • competencies
  • circular economy
  • product design
  • sustainability
  • circular consumption
  • Circular Economy Competencies for Design

    Sumter, D., 2021, 197 p.

    Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

    Open Access
    71 Downloads (Pure)

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