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New design methods equip designers to make better material choices

September 17, 2018

To help designers become better equipped to make positive materials choices, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, together with design professionals have collaborated to develop four new advanced methods on safe and circular materials.

The methods have been created for designers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to make positive material choices and rethink the design process to integrate safe principles from the very start.

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Funded by the MAVA Foundation, the project emphasises the fact that not all materials are fit for a circular economy. Materials may contain chemicals of concern which can be polluting and potentially hazardous for humans and the environment. These chemicals are either used unintentionally or added for performance reasons. However, there are ways to design them out.

The series of advanced methods offers up solutions to ensure materials are both safe and circular by considering the system around the product - a key circular design principle. Choosing safe materials should be a consideration through the design process, rather than an afterthought, therefore each method corresponds to a key intervention moment: understand, define, make, and release.

The methods sit within the Circular Design Guide, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO’s design thinking guide for the circular economy. The guide challenges traditional design methods and delivers new approaches, introducing users to circular economy concepts as well as techniques updated for this new economic framework.

The methods also point to a number of resources, case studies, and tools that enable designers to activate safe and circular materials choices within their projects. One such tool is MaterialWise, which offers a free platform for screening the substances within a product. This helps to ensure the selection of safe, healthy ingredients by identifying known human health and environmental hazards.

Following on from the release of the methods, there will be a webinar taking place on the 3rd October on the Circular Design Guide website. The webinar speaker panel is made up of design professionals and experts from the industry who will give their take on the role of designers in the development of safe and circular design. Speakers will be announced later this week, stayed tuned on the Safe & Circular page for details.