How to bake a circular ecodesign cake


Movie by Anna Velander-Gisslèn, SVID

On 5 March 2021, the International Design Center Berlin (IDZ) organised a "Train the Trainer" workshop. Two EcoDesign tools for transition from linear to circular business models were presented: EcoDesign Audit and Sprint – both developed within the EcoDesign Circle project. The workshop was aimed equally at designers, SMEs & environmental experts and conducted by Markus Vihma, a circular business consultant from Tallinn, Estonia, and Peter Post, an expert and consultant for UX and service design from Wiesbaden, Germany. Environmental experts were to be initiated into the perspective of a designer with regard to customer experience. Designers could find out how to run an EcoDesign Sprint with a focus on service design aspects and circular customer experience. As an entrepreneur you could learn how an EcoDesign Audit and/or Sprint can support your company to manage internal processes and to find a good circular business model.


But what are Audit and Sprint actually?


An easy first step to start making products and services more circular is to get an overview of what is actually possible within the framework of your company. Using the cake as an example: You don't know what kind of cake you can bake until you have gone through your stocks, your equipment, your abilities and got an overview. Markus Vihma was responsible for the potential of the “finished cake” in this workshop. He analysed what supplies were there, what the guests' preferences were and what “baking skills” had already been mastered. For an organisation, this means an analysis of its potential - what do employees and leaders want to achieve? Do they just want a greener product/service or do they want a product/service that is as sustainable as possible? Do they have the capacity, the staff, the know-how, the machinery to make it happen? This analysis of potential is also called an EcoDesign Audit.

This Audit includes diagnostics of the organisation‘s capacity for circular design and potential for circular business models. The four steps of the Audit comprise

» background research about the company,
» an on-site visit and interviews with key people,
» an analysis of the gathered information,
» and reporting back to the company.

EcoDesignCircle workshop web kuva Kalle Kataila 6689 1920x1280Photo: Kalle Kataila

The EcoDesign Sprint for Services was developed by the Design Forum Finland in collaboration with the circular design consultancy Ethica and the customer experience design agency Hellon. In most cases, the Sprint follows an Audit and takes three days of workshops (with a break of some weeks between workshops 2 and 3). It results in a service design map and a service sample for validation with the customers.

In the Circular Service Design Sprint presented by Peter Post, the focus was again on the sustainability aspect. A design and circular business expert tandem facilitates the process and guides through the ideation, design and validation processes at the client company. It should be joined by a team of the enterprises including its CEO and representatives of different departments.

Sprint means taking the findings from the Audit and developing a concept on how to design products/services in a circular way. So in terms of the cake, you elaborate a healthy recipe using organic and local ingredients & sustainable baking processes. You now identify the target group, what they expect, how best to address them and how to communicate the sustainable, healthy innovation in a palatable way. Then you start baking.

"Circular economy is technological, ecological and business innovation, but foremost a social innovation. – It’s about people either getting the idea of circularity or getting the advantages of circular services and products." - Peter Post


As part of the EcoDesign Circle 4.0 project, Peter Post of Scholz & Volkmer and Markus Vihma conducted a EcoDesign Audit and Sprint with a German furniture manufacturer. In a two-day workshop with the company’s CEO, the head of product development and a senior product designer, they developed a circular service design concept from ideation to customer journey. The furniture company did not just want to produce chairs, but to extend the life of each one. By turning the chair as a product into a performance/service, it moved from a linear performance - you produce chairs, sell them and never see them again - to a circular service - you produce chairs, sell/ rent them and take them back when they are broken or no longer meet the customer's needs, repair them, refurbish them and give them a new life.


It’s all about networking and social skills.

This “Train the Trainer” workshop provided the participants with a methodology on how to transform linear company structures into circular businesses. It is important not to force anyone to become more sustainable and circular, but rather to support the implementation of the methodology, provided that the companies are willing to change something in this direction. The motivation must be intrinsic. In fact, anyone with good social skills who is good at relating to other people, can accompany such a process. However, experts in the field of design and environment need to be present to support with their experience and to guide the process so that in the end the result is truly a sustainable circular product/service.

In the future, the International Design Center Berlin plans to host more such trainings and arrange further EcoDesign Audit Sprints. Interested? Then please get in touch at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Author: Lisa Marie Fiebig