Framework Circular Design

The Framework Circular Design is basically a practical framework. Designers working with circularity will gain an initial understanding of the scope of the topic. In doing so, it also provides a theoretical framework for working out design topics in a structured and detailed way and applying them in the design process. On this page we explain how to use the Framework and share different interpretations of it.

Explore the Circular Design Framework

Central to circular design is the preservation of ecological and economic value. How to achieve this value retention is visualized in the Framework Circular Design. This framework brings together two key elements.

First, the Value Hill(Achterberg, Hinfelaar, & Bocken, 2016). A practical tool that allows you to visualize value creation and destruction. This forms a basis with which you can develop circular propositions and strategies in which circles remain closed and value is exploited at the highest possible level.

To the Value Hill we linked a matrix with three design dimensions and four focus areas. In this way, the Value Hill is made concrete for the design process and vice versa. In this matrix you can plot design topics that are relevant to achieve this value retention per part of the Value Hill in the design process.

3 x design dimension

Three dimensions apply to integral circular design: the product-service combination, the business model and the value system. In a design process, there is always an interrelation between the dimensions, but in the framework we have described them separately.

The product and service dimension focuses on designing the product with an eye toward optimum value retention. You do this by, among other things, anticipating future applications of the product. And by ensuring that products, components and materials can be reused again in a high-quality manner. In designing the service and process, you facilitate more intensive involvement with the user and other chain parties.

In the business model dimension, you define the way you set up value creation and preservation, how you generate revenue over the entire life cycle and how you alloce cost at the level of an individual provider. How do you as a provider (and other parties in the chain) realize an attractive business case?

These first two dimensions focus on the proposition design of an individual provider. It is usually an iterative process with great consistency between the product-service design and the business model.

The value system dimension focuses on the chain and additions from other sectors. Indeed, some of the circular interventions go beyond the actions of individual companies. They must be set up collectively at the chain level. Examples include setting up an open loop collection system, defining (material) standards or information exchange throughout the chain. Individual companies adopt these agreements voluntarily or enforced by regulations. They then become design requirements on the first two dimensions.


4 x design focus

The design process generally takes place before the introduction of a proposition. In a linear design, the main focus is on raw materials and production. In a design process with circular principles, you consider the entire life cycle. You also pay attention to optimizing the use phase. And you sort for applications of the product, components or materials after use. These focal points are linked to the phases in the Value Hill.

An additional design focus, which actually precedes Value Hill, is rethink. There, the question is whether the need that the product fulfills can be served in a completely different way. Can you deliver the functionality with a different product-service concept? Or can you fill the need in a way that avoids product deployment?

In the framework, we have broken down these different focuses. Thus, we indicate which design topics are relevant for each focus. Good circular design includes, of course, all areas of focus. In practice, you will usually optimize within one of the focuses first.


The design challenges and questions

The framework can be used to elaborate on various design-related topics. Moreover, the structure functions as a kind of checklist for design processes. But the content of the matrix can vary from product to product and is fodder for dialogue.

We have made a start to formulate the generic design challenge for each cell. In addition, we have fleshed them out in a separate framework with an example of the design questions for each challenge. There is bound to be much discussion about that interpretation. But that, too, is a desired function of the framework.

You can download the framework with the design challenges below:

Dutch download English download


You can download the framework and its design questions below:

Dutch download English download



There are plenty of design topics you can plot in the framework. We invite everyone to do so and share it. That's why we also provide an empty version of the framework. Topics that lend themselves to this, for example, are:

  • Design guidelines from a new European Regulation Ecodesign for sustainable product regulation (general and by product category);
  • Design questions for a specific Extended Producer Responsibility (UPV), for example, for textiles;
  • Knowledge question by topic, distinguishing what is available and what is not;
  • Available design tools.

Getting started!


We hope that the Circular Design Framework provides a good structure for circular design processes. We encourage parties to elaborate on circular design topics with it. That is why we are sharing an empty version of the framework here. Go ahead and share it. That way we can move circular design forward together!


Dutch download
English download