The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO launch a design guide for the circular economy

Circular Design Guide helps businesses get started with circular innovation

Key highlights:

  • The Circular Design Guidehas been developed with input from leading businesses, over 400 students and specialist design institutions
  • The new tool includes 24 methods and a resource bank enabling change makers, entrepreneurial innovators and students to get to grips with the circular economy
  • Launch event features presentations from Ellen MacArthur, Philips CEO Frans van Houten, Nike COO Eric Sprunk and IDEO CEO Tim Brown
  • The resource will help embed circular design thinking, enabling businesses to re-think value creation to develop more circular products, services and resilient, feedback-rich organisations.

IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have today released the first design thinking guide for the circular economy. Created to drive awareness of the circular economy, the practical guide encourages innovators, entrepreneurs and corporate change-makers to ask new questions about value creation and long-term business health, and apply circular principles to their own organisations.

The Circular Design Guide taps into an emerging business appetite for a restorative and regenerative approach that delivers sustained prosperity; an alternative to the increasing costs and risks associated with a 'take, make, dispose' linear economy. Such risks include price volatility, resource supply constraints and increased regulation. Organisations can also apply the methods in the guide to seize the opportunities of a connected citizen and digitised economy.

Though design is central in the transition to the circular economy, the shift is complex and cannot be achieved with traditional design methods alone. The Circular Design Guide delivers a new approach, introducing users to circular economy concepts as well as design thinking techniques updated for this new economic framework. It comprises 24 methods, as well as video interviews with designers, worksheets, case studies, and links to helpful technical tools.

The guide also supports complex circular challenges such as re-thinking global plastics flows, also on the agenda at Davos. This involves a wide range of stakeholders and a fragmented value chain - here, the guide can act as a central, neutral resource on how to design for the circular economy. As such, participants in the New Plastics Economy initiative are already using it to redesign plastic packaging and the systems needed to manage it after use.

“Design is integral in the shift to the circular economy. There’s only so much we can do with products, services and systems based on the ‘take, make, dispose’ model. By re-thinking and re-designing, we can accelerate the transition to a new model that doesn’t just ’eke out resources a bit longer', but is restorative and regenerative by design. It’s a new driver for innovation, and across our Global Partners, CE100 network, New Plastics Economy initiative and beyond we’re seeing organisations eager to embrace this new vision. With the Circular Design Guide, it’s easier than ever to get started.”

- Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“Transitioning to the circular economy is one of the most important design challenges of our time. For designers, it means rethinking traditional approaches and retraining in circular principles. This guide was created to provide the tools needed to move from ideas to action, creating solutions for the circular economy that give businesses a competitive edge and are regenerative for our world.”

- Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO

The Circular Design Guide launches at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, with a gathering at the ICEhouse™ seeing presentations from ARUP Chairman Gregory Hodkinson, Nike COO Eric Sprunk, IDEO CEO Tim Brown, Andrew Morlet and Ellen MacArthur.

To access the Circular Design Guide, visit

About IDEO

IDEO (pronounced “EYE-dee-oh”) is a global design and innovation firm. For more than 30 years, IDEO has helped create positive impact through design by taking a human-centered approach to helping organisations in the public and private sectors innovate, grow, and bring to market new ideas. We partner with leaders and change agents to identify new market opportunities, and to design and launch innovative products, services, ventures, and brands.

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five areas: insight and analysis, business and government, education and training, systemic initiatives, and communication. With its Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Co., and SYSTEMIQ), and supported by Core Philanthropic Funder (SUN), the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a more circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. The Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners (Cisco, Danone, Google, H&M, Intesa Sanpaolo, NIKE, Inc., Philips, Renault, Unilever), and its CE100 network (businesses, universities, emerging innovators, governments, cities and affiliate organisations), to build capacity, explore collaboration opportunities and to develop circular business initiatives. The Foundation has created global teaching, learning and training platforms on the circular economy, encompassing work with leading universities, schools and colleges, and online events such as the Disruptive Innovation Festival. By establishing platforms such as the New Plastics Economy initiative, the Foundation works to transform key material flows, applying a global, cross-sectoral, cross value chain approach that aims to effect systems change. The Foundation promotes the idea of a circular economy via research reports, case studies and books series, using multiple channels, web and social media platforms, including which provides a leading online source for circular economy news and insight. Further information: | @circulareconomy