Circular Product Design Guidelines2022-10-20T10:09:18+00:00


with great guidelines comes great responsibility

Explore the different design guidelines

This design tool is made for product designers and consists of 10 circular strategies, 16 design focuses, and 122 design guidelines all aiming to promote circular product design. The purpose of the tool is to inspire product designers to design better and more circular products with the use of design guidelines. Explore and filter the different design guidelines below by clicking on strategies.

Reduce materials2020-01-21T21:04:18+00:00
Reduce the amount of material used in the product.
  • Apply ribbed structures to reduce material and increase structural stiffness
  • Reduce overall dimension without compromising accessibility of components
  • Reduce thickness
  • Avoid extra components with little functionality
  • Remove material that has no function
  • Reduce interfaces between components
  • Digitalise components
  • Design for minimal length of wires and cables
  • Reduce the use of scarce materials such as tin, precious metals and use more renewable and bio-based materials
  • Choose the lowest adequate level of material quality that still is suitable for the application without influencing the quality
Utilize data in product design2020-01-21T21:14:13+00:00
Implement systems that enables the collection of data about the product to help take qualified design decisions.
  • Collect data to keep track of your products, to know where they are at the end of their service life
  • Collect data about user behavior to improve product performance and customer experience
  • Collect data about technical product performance to discover design errors
  • Incorporate systems to monitor failing components
  • Identify energy and emission heavy components to support sustainable design decisions
Enable inspection2020-01-21T21:20:00+00:00
Design for inspection and functional assessment of the product, its components and its materials.


  • Use standardized materials identification systems
  • Arrange material identification in easily visible places
  • Avoid using additional materials for material identification markings e.g. a sticker

Retrieve Product

  • Retrieve Product
  • Make manuals for testing and inspection available
  • Make inspection points and test of components easily accessible
  • Use standardized components across generations and products to ease inspection
  • Condition of a product and its components must be easy to determine in order to know if it is useful to repair or not
  • Enable rough assessment of the product without having to disassemble or clean the product first in order to decide if the condition is good enough to be given a new life
  • Add indications that show you how big the wear is e.g. many tires have a rubber bar in the pattern that makes it possible se when it is worn out
Enable cleaning2020-01-21T21:22:07+00:00
Enable easy cleaning of the product in use as well as in take-back of a product. This as well implies the cleaning of materials when recycling (removal of paint).

Enable cleaning

  • The surfaces to be cleaned should be smooth and wear resistant
  • All product components should withstand the same cleaning process, liquid and chemicals, as well as temperatures, detergents and cleaning tools
  • Avoiding making areas where dirt might accumulate and are hard to clean properly e.g., avoid small holes, nooks, grooves sharp edges and thresholds which capture dirt

Cleaning for recycle

  • Avoid irremovable coating materials and make it easy to remove the coating materials
  • Priorities dyeing of internal polymers, rather than surface painting
Enable accessibility of critical components2020-01-21T21:24:54+00:00
It should be as easy as possible to access critical components.

Critical Components

  • Identify critical components which are subject to stress, wear, corrode, stain, break, or fail and make sure of easy access and easy to dismount
  • Arrange and facilitate disassembly and re-attachment of frequently damageable and failing components


  • Ensure that components that needs to be upgraded or repaired are marked and to access and dismount
  • Ensure that components that needs to be upgraded or repaired by customers (non-professionals) are marked and to access and dismount
Design for disassembly2020-02-10T15:53:49+00:00
Make the product as easy as possible to disassemble. This includes choosing right joints and tools.

Joints and connectors

  • Minimize the amount of joints and connectors
  • Minimize the different types of joints and connectors
  • Use standardized joints and connectors
  • Use joints and connectors that are easy to disassemble e.g. latch, snap-fits, clips, bolts and screws
  • Promote latches and reversible snap-fits
  • Avoid fixed joints and connectors e.g. welding, rivets, folding, staples, and gluing
  • Use screws with the same metrics
  • Use screws that are easy to disassembly e.g. hexagonal head with short thread
  • Replace soldered connectors with plug-in connectors
  • Minimize hierarchically dependent connections between components
  • Design geometric locking that enables easy disassemble e.g. short threaded twist joint for removing aluminum cap to access the battery
  • Design accessible and recognisable entrances for dismantling

Product structure

  • Design for damage free disassemble
  • Promote modular design to ease disassemble (see Design for modularity)
  • Minimize numbers of components
  • Minimize hierarchically dependent connections between components
  • Identify which component or material needs to be disassemble first and make this component easy for disassembly
  • Minimize different directions in the disassembly route of components and materials
  • Design for multiple detachments with one operation
  • Identify critical components which are subject to stress, wear, corrode, stain, break, or fail and make sure of easy access and easy to dismount
  • Reduce the steps of disassemble
  • Priorities the disassembly of components or materials with higher economic value
Use renewable materials2020-02-10T15:56:49+00:00
Material that is from a renewable source. e.g. wood, bio-plastic etc.
  • Promote renewable materials
  • Reduce the use of scarce renewable materials
  • Avoid combining non-degradable materials with products that are going to be composted
Use recyclable materials2020-02-10T16:13:23+00:00
Use materials that can be recycled in end-of-life.
  • Select materials that are easy to recycle
  • Select materials with the most efficient recycling technologies
  • Use materials with same recycling method
  • Select materials that are compatible or easy to separate to increase recycling possibilities
  • Select fewer types of materials and increase the homogeneity of materials
  • Design parts that will be replaced for recycling
  • Avoid composite materials such as laminates, plated metals or metal alloys
  • Avoid additives and coatings
  • Use screws made of materials compatible with joint components, to avoid their separation before recycling
  • Avoid using additional materials for marking or codification
  • Avoid adhesives or choose ones that comply with materials to be recycled
  • Prefer thermoplastic polymers to thermosetting
  • Prefer heat-proof thermoplastic polymers to fireproof additives
  • Prefer the dyeing of internal polymers, rather than surface painting
  • Do not mould metal threaded inserts in plastic parts
Use secondary materials2020-02-10T16:14:34+00:00
Avoid using virgin material, which is material that has never been used or processed.
  • Reduce the use of virgin raw materials and increase the use of recovered/recycled material
  • Use materials previously designated as waste such as re-mining from landfill or using ocean plastics (restorative sourcing)
  • Use residual materials from production processes (industrial symbiosis)
Avoid hazardous and harmfull materials2020-02-10T16:50:35+00:00
Avoid materials that are proposes a danger to the environment, employees and users. Follow legislations and predict future trend.
  • Identify existence hazardous and harmful materials
  • Select materials that comply with the legislations and regulations of hazardous materials and chemicals
  • Eliminate toxic and hazardous materials
Avoid materials with high environmental impact2020-02-10T16:52:48+00:00
Choose materials that has a low carbon footprint (consider all life cycle stages).

Materials extraction

  • Avoid materials with a high environmental impact during material extraction


  • Avoid materials with a high environmental impact during the production
  • Choose materials that does not require extra surface treatment and avoid cyanide and hexavalent chromium
  • Choose materials that does not cause high emissions in production
  • Select light material for less energy consumption in transportation


  • Avoid materials with a high environmental impact during usage


  • Avoid materials that emit dangerous substances during incineration
  • Choose materials with high embodied energy to contribute to energy recovery from materials throughout combustion
Use standardized components across products2020-02-10T16:53:44+00:00
Reduce the number of different parts within a product to lower supply chain costs, improve product platforms, and faster product design.
  • Use standard components across products to enhance compatibility and exchangeability of components
  • Use standard components across product generations to enhance compatibility and exchangeability of components.
  • Select components that are easy to find on the market
Design for durability2020-02-10T16:58:57+00:00
Design for durability aims to increase a products longevity and robustness by improving the product architecture and material.


  • Select quality, strong, robust and durable materials according to the product lifespan e.g. leather strap on headphone loses aesthetic look after many use cycles
  • Design for excessive use of material in fragile areas
  • Avoid materials that might lose strength, get brittle or get discoloured over time

Select lowest adequate material

  • Choose the lowest adequate level of material quality that still is suitable for the application without influencing the quality
  • Avoid selecting durable materials for temporary products or components

Product structure

  • Reuse components and materials that has shown to be reliable in other generations or products
  • Components which are subject to a stress, wear, corrode, stain, break or fail easily should be avoided, minimized or made particularly resistant
  • Identify components that is expected to be replaced. These should not necessarily be robust but be design for easy removal
  • Make lifespan of selected components recognizable with visual indicators e.g. show battery health on B&O smartphone app

Reduce product complexity

  • Eliminate weak connectors and joints
  • Reduce overall number of components
  • Reduce interfaces between components

Design for several use cycles

  • Estimate how many life cycles the product is supposed to live. Make it strong enough to withstand these circumstances for the duration of the supposed lifetime
  • Estimate both durable lifetime, value lifetime and aesthetic lifetime of the product. A product might get discarded before the end of its durable lifetime
  • Select components with the same durability and lifespan
  • The components that do not change through different use cycles of a product should be designed to be durable and reliable for several lifecycles

Use phase

  • Promote use of product under the indented conditions to avoid break down so the product can move to the next lifecycle e.g. how to transport a H9 headphone
  • Make sure that all components are able to withstand the same conditions in use phase
Design for modularity2020-02-10T17:00:58+00:00
Modular design subdivides a system into smaller parts called modules, which can be independently created, modified, replaced or exchanged between different systems.

Identify modules

  • Locate unrecyclable components and materials and unify in one module to be easily removed
  • Locate materials with a certain recycling method and unify in one module to ease recycling. Strive to design for mono materials in these modules.
  • Locate components that do not change throughout all generations and unify in one module
  • Locate components which are subject to a stress, wear, corrode, stain, break or fail and unify in one module
  • Locate components with a high cost and unify in one module
Reduce energy and resources in use2020-02-10T17:03:29+00:00
How can the product be designed for reducing energy and resources in the use phase? E.g. a Nespresso machine uses both electricity, water and coffee capsules in the use phase.


  • Use rechargeable batteries
  • Use components that uses little energy and consider energy efficient technologies

Product setup

  • Provide how-to-use manuals and procedure for more efficient and effective use of products
  • Program product’s default state at minimal energy consumption e.g. low audio level as a default when turning on H9 headphone
  • Make a stand-by function. Preferably an automatic turn-off function
Design for future functions and performance2020-02-10T17:06:04+00:00
Design the product to accommodate future trends, technology and performance.

Aesthetic life

  • Focusing on simplicity and functionality makes the product attractive for a longer time
  • Enable the change of appearance to give prolonged aesthetic life to the product eg. changing ear cushions on a H9 headphone

Functional life

  • Focus on the reliability and quality of the product function to nurture a user commitment and encourage repair rather than replacement of the product
  • Consider future product performance (e.g. battery life) and future product functions (e.g., true wireless)
  • Try to predict possible upgrades and how will these upgrades affect other components
  • Consider the trends of charging and connection plugs and design for standards
  • Use materials and components that will be available in the future

In collaboration with
Bang & Olufsen

The circular product design tool is the product of a master thesis from the Technical University of Denmark from 2020 and was created by Christoph Bengtsson Lissalde and Jacob Andreas Lützen in close collaboration with the design team of Bang & Olufsen.

Jacob Andreas Lützen

+45 42676253

Christoph Bengtsson Lissalde

+45 22447008

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