Circular Economy Competencies for Design

Deborah Sumter

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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The circular economy offers an alternative to the linear economy (also called the take-make-use-waste society) we live in. It puts emphasis on using resources effectively by slowing and closing resources loops. Design is seen as enabler in a circular economy. Design decisions taken now have an impact on the recovery of products in the future. The transition towards a circular economy requires new competencies. Competencies can be used to inform the development of circular-economy-based methodology and curricula. However, limited research has been done when it comes to circular economy competencies for design. Through a set of five studies this thesis explores both design roles and competencies for a circular economy. The studies detail an in depth case of a design-driven Original Equipment Manufacturer piloting a circular business model and highlight learnings from interviews, focus groups and a survey with front running designers in the circular design field. The thesis concludes with a set of nine key circular economy competencies for design, which can be as a reference for competency development in design when developing circular economy-based methodology and curricula.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Balkenende, A.R., Supervisor
  • Bakker, C.A., Supervisor
  • de Koning, J.I.J.C., Advisor
Award date21 May 2021
Print ISBNs978-94-6366-397-7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • competencies
  • circular design
  • circular economy
  • design
  • sustainability


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