Circular Product Design Checked: Design Framework
Approach for future proof and adaptable product design

How to adapt products during their lifetime in a way that prolongs the use of the product? That’s the circular concept and equally the aim of Use It Wisely. Product design influences the possibilities for upgrades, reuse and therefore the productive and functional lifetime of a product. Hence, sustainable, adaptive product design is part of the research executed in the UIW project. The result: the Design Framework.

Aim and structure

Product design has traditionally been aimed at production and sale. The design process needs to shift focus to the entire lifespan i.e. the entire use period of a product. Equally, is it no longer sufficient to only avoid environmental impact at the end of the product’s life, a shift is made to a holistic view: the entire lifecycle of a product becomes relevant. To act more sustainably, repair, re-use and remanufacturing of products and materials have to become part of design requirements. Therefore, a closed loop system through smart product design has the following goals: 100% Re-use, 100% closed loop system, 0% use of virgin materials, 0% waste, 0% energy consumption.

The Design Framework is structured in main topics. First of all, existing requirements or so called branch standards that currently determine the end-users expectation of the quality of a product.  For example, general requirements for a task chair for safe use. All of these requirements will met when designing a product, but will not be taken into account in the end result of this method. The grey block (figure 1) therefore is presumed to be met and serves as base requirements in product design. All other topics are related to environmental impact and the possibility to prolong use-time of the product (hence circular design). These topics, divided in ‘Design for’ and ‘Process’, are scored in the Design Framework. Figure 1 shows all topics addressed.

Gispen Design Framework

Figure 1 – Topics embedded in Design Framework

Development method and procedure

The topics shown above have been detailed further in so called ‘checklist questions’. The list of questions has been assembled based on existing and tested checklists on the various topics. For example design for assembly is a known and well researched area, and existing checklists have been used. Through testing and careful deliberation the final list of relevant questions has been compiled.

All resulting in a complete list that is used in the design process. Each question is answer yes (1) or no (0). Once all questions are filled out a combined and balanced score (1-10) is generated.


It is now possible to compare products and designs amongst each other based on, not always aligning, goals for sustainable and circular product use. The extent to which a design meets requirements for repair, upgrades and re-use is expressed in a single score. Hence, the design framework is a very practical tool to ensure lifelong adaptation of products. Easy use and transparent scoring creates the possibility to explain the benefits of a particular product design to the end user.

For more information

To learn more about the Design Framework, please contact Karin Verploegen at