About Ecodesign, Circular Economy and Our Project

Ecodesign - Our understanding


A key aim of ecodesign is to reduce to a minimum the overall environmental impact of a product or service. It refers to innovative design solutions in both products and services that take into consideration the entire lifecycle – from the extraction of raw materials to production, distribution and use – all the way to recycling, “reparability”, and disposal. Minimisation of pollutants during the production period is just as important as it is during the product’s lifetime. However, ecodesign is an elastic and evolving concept that is better considered as an approach to design than as a label for eco-friendly products.

The use of energy-efficient and eco-friendly resources is certainly an important aspect, but the concept of ecodesign goes beyond this. It is a holistic approach, keeping in view environmental, social and economic benefits as well as aesthetically appealing and durable design. Ecodesign by its nature fosters innovation and promotes behavioural change in producers and consumers towards product-service systems and self-sufficiency. It envisions “ecologically-minded” thinking not as an add-on but as part of the fundamental design process right from the start. Once it has made the leap from theory to practice, ecodesign can help achieve the move towards a circular economy. In short, Ecodesign is good design that benefits people and the environment alike.



Perspectives on ecodesign


  • IDZ Patrick&Jutta

    Ecodesign offers innovative and appealing solutions, viewed from a perspective that encompasses aesthetics, functionality, user-friendliness, and of course sustainability and environmental compatibility.
    Our world is in large part man-made – or rather, designer-made.
    Objects and processes are not products of chance, but are planned, designed and built. An important objective of Ecodesign is to create products, services and systems with minimal negative impact on our health and environment – in all stages of their lifetime.

    In short, Ecodesign is good design that benefits people and the environment alike.

    Jutta Brinkschulte & Patrick Liwitzki, International Design Center Berlin
  • UBA

    Ecodesign is a systematic and comprehensive creative approach to products and services, employing improved product and service-design to minimise their environmental impact across the entire lifecycle.

    During product planning and design, producers can greatly influence any phase of the value creation process and material lifecycle – a chance to promote ecological innovation.

    Lead Partner Umweltbundesamt, German Environment Agency
  • SVID_Catarina

    Circular economy and ecodesign are all about smart, innovative and sustainable design solutions with minimal or no waste when a product is consumed. What whatever waste there is should go back to the producer, to be used by consumers in a new context or be returned to nature without doing any harm.

    Concerning sustainable development, ultimately, our aim is quality of life - for everyone - today and in the future. To ensure that design and product development progresses in the right direction, we need to include a holistic perspective that includes the environment, people, the economy and culture.

    Catarina von Matern, SVID
  • DFF_Kristina

    Should ecodesign be considered strictly from the point of view of resource efficiency, sustainability and circular economy? Or should a broader view be taken on ecodesign?

    I would regard ecodesign from a wider perspective taking of course into account resource efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy.
    In my mind, when talking about ecodesign we should be talking also about product-service-system thinking, about replacing products with services, about disrupting and transforming the market with new, better designed products, services & ways of doing things, creating totally new business models.

    Kristina Noor-Ilander, Design Forum Finland


Some academic definitions


Design for Sustainability

Design for Sustainability
by Rocha, Antunes & Partidario, 2019

..." is a holistic design approach that enables to integrate and assess the sustainability dimensions in different stages of the product or product-service development process towards the required scale of incremental and/or radical innovations."

by Vezzoli, 2018

..."[is] a design practice, education and research that, in one way or another, contributes to sustainable development"

Circular Product Design

Circular Product Design
from "Products that last" by Bakker, Hollander, van Hinte & Zijlstra, 2014

... "Elevates design to a systems level (1),
strives to maintain product integrity (2),
is about cycling at a different pace (3),
explores new relationships and experiences with products (4) and is driven by different business models (5)."


by Johansson, 2002

..." refers to actions taken in product development aimed at minimising a product’s environmental impact during its whole life cycle, without compromising other essential product criteria such as performance and cost."


by Vezzoli et at., 2014

... is "the design of the system of products and services that are together able to fulfill a particular customer demand (deliver a 'unit of satisfaction') based on the design of innovative interactions of the stakeholders (directly or indirectly linked to that 'satisfaction' system) where the economic and competetive interest of the providers continuously seeks both environmentally and socio-ethically beneficial new solutions."


Good ecodesign / circular design examples

Roadshow Ecodesign

We collected 30 visionary ideas, products and services for our Roadshow Ecodesign (2017 - 2019).


German Ecodesign Award

The German Ecodesign Award recognises sustainable products, services and concepts which are outstanding in their design. Since 2012, the German Ecodesign Award has been granted annually by the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) in cooperation with the International Design Center Berlin (IDZ).

Here you can find all nominated and awarded projects since 2012. About 300 inspiring cases!



Our partner, the Design Forum Finland, is involved in SUSTAINORDIC - a platform and network that aims to promote sustainable consumption and production based on a Nordic perspective. The network partners collectively gather good examples from the Nordic countries.


Circit Nord

CIRCit Norden was a 3½-year research project (2017-2020), spanning the five Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. They collected 79 cases of circular economy in the Nordic countries.



Ecodesign - the way out of linear into circular systems


Design talks Business Training | How to Design Circular Business


Further reading materials

Quality Standards for Circular Design

Short and precise. The publication “Quality Standards for Circular Design. Design criteria for sustainable development” was published by the IDRV and designaustria. It aims to be a standard work for circular design, to serve as a working aid, and to create the necessary awareness.

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Circular Design Rules

The Circular Design Rules V 1.0 consist of a deck of 9 cards that feature a rule that is indispensable in the design of recyclable products. On the backside of each card, concrete steps are described to support the design process of circular products.
Circular Design Rules is a research project in the frame-work of the New European Bauhaus Initia- tive.

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The Knowledge Alliance on Product-Service Development towards Circular Economy and Sustainability in Higher Education (short Katch-e) developed training materials that follow a problem-based, multidisciplinary learning approach, connecting designers, engineers and other relevant stakeholders. For example, read the module on "Design and Development". Register and get access to all training materials.

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Dieter Rams

"Good design means to me: as little design as possible."
The German industrial designer Dieter Rams (born 1932) has been an outspoken voice calling for “an end to the era of wastefulness” and to consider how we can continue to live on a planet with finite resources. He defined his design philosophy into ten distinct points (see also his speech in New York in 1976).

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Design for Sustainability - A Multi-level Framework from Products to Socio-technical Systems by Fabrizio Ceschin and İdil Gaziulusoy.
It is now widely understood that design can and must play a crucial role in the societal transformations towards sustainability. This open access book discusses the most significant ways in which design has been applied to sustainability challenges using an evolutionary perspective. It offers a unique perspective on how Design for Sustainability has evolved in the past decades across these innovation levels, and provides insights on its promising and necessary future development directions.

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