The Circular Economy and Circular Product Design are familiar concepts to many of us thanks to organisations, such as The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that has raised public awareness of the need to end the “take, make, waste” approach to life. 

At The Imagination Factory we use a practical framework called Resource-Conscious Design which is based on the core concepts of circular design. 


Circular product development requires a particular mindset including empathy for the people who will have to deal with the products, that we bring into existence, when they reach the end of their useful life. It also requires businesses to take an iterative approach because it is unlikely that the first attempt at circular design will be 100% successful. 

Resource concious design diagram


Central to circular product design is the idea that the resources used to make a product or provide a service need to remain useful once the product reaches the end of its life. Successful circular product design requires an understanding of materials, recycling processes, energy systems and much more.  

The toolkit that we have developed enables manufacturers and design teams to ask the right questions when evaluating an existing product or a new concept. It also helps to identify the gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed. 

Design for and from recycling


The tools within the framework we have developed are built on years of experience including participation in an EU funded programme that brought together designers, manufacturers, polymer scientists, waste collectors and recyclers. If you'd like a copy of this practical set of guidelines, get in touch here and we can send you a copy.

Adidas shoe designed from recycled materials


There are 5 key steps to our Resource-Conscious Design framework

  • Understand the stakeholders involved in the lifetime of the product 
  • Evaluate the product/concept/range using 10 rules of thumb 
  • Use a “complexity level tool” for incorporating recycled plastics 
  • Create a roadmap for moving to circular products and business models 
  • Run a pilot trial to gain momentum within your business and assess 
Workshops that teach circular design


The Imagination Factory can support your business in different ways depending on whether you have an in-house design capability or not. 

INHOUSE - we can run a 1-day workshop to introduce a team to the key concepts and tools so they are better equipped for circular design. 

OUTSOURCED - When a design function in your business is not available, we can stand in the gap for you, giving you have the confidence that best practice in Resource-Conscious Design will be applied. 


We are encouraged to see the progress being made by many businesses in the area of circular product design and the circular economy and there is plenty of good material available for you and your team to learn from. 

We recommend the following books and media: 


We provide the benefit of many years working as lead consultants and in-house experts within the worlds of industrial design and design engineering. Our teams partner with yours to demystify the front end of innovation for joined-up strategy, smoother development and faster delivery.

If you would like to talk to us about a design or engineering problem that needs solving, a solution that needs a strategy or an idea that needs turning into a reality, drop us a line.


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