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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Nike’s Circular Design Workbook Offers Sustainability Guidelines for All Designers

The company says it hopes that the workbook helps to inspire considered choices that will reshape the future of product design around the world.

Nike has released a new, open-source design guide to provide designers and product creators across the industry with a common language for circularity.

According to Nike, Circularity: Guiding the Future of Design was created in collaboration with the students and staff of Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and with inspiration from Global Fashion Agenda; and follows on the notion that the future of design is an opportunity. The aim is to create products that promote circularity — that last longer and are designed with the end in mind.

"At Nike, we believe in the unlimited potential of athletes. We have an obligation to consider the complete design solution, inclusive of how we source it, make it, use it, return it, and, ultimately, how we reimagine it,” says John Hoke, Nike’s Chief Design Officer. “Circularity and its related workbook share principles that support a universal call to action for our industry: We must all come together and have a more positive impact on our planet.

“Design has the opportunity to take on a powerful role in making the world a better place,” Hoke added. “Circularity puts us on a journey that focuses on achieving progress hour by hour, day by day, week by week, year by year. By focusing on progress and not perfection, and by making better choices, we embrace the chance to reconsider our craft in hope that it forms a ground swell of change."

One example of sustainable design at Nike is new thinking around how to improve the material palette, proving that sustainability is not a constraint, but a catalyst for innovation — case in point: Flyleather is an example of creating lower-impact, more-durable alternatives to conventional materials. 

This isn’t Nike’s first foray into sharing resources that provide insight into its design thinking and guidance toward use of more sustainable materials. In 2012, Nike developed the Higg Material Sustainability Index — a cradle-to-gate scoring tool that measures and communicates the environmental performance of thousands of materials used in creating apparel, footwear and home textile products; and in 2014, it released an app called MAKING, to help designers and product creators make informed decisions about the environmental impacts of the materials they choose.

Now, Circularity: Guiding the Future of Design aims to build on those by sharing 10 key principles — from materials, cyclability and waste avoidance to green chemistry and durability — all starting points from which to tear down norms and reconsider the process of craft and design. The guide includes case studies from Nike, as well as from Levi Strauss, t-shirt subscription service For Days, Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, children’s clothing line Petit Pli, British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn and more — each illustrating one of the 10 core principles.

As Noel Kinder, chief sustainability officer at Nike, told Women’s Wear Daily, “There are some case studies that say, ‘Here’s an example of this particular principle,’ but from a collaboration point of view, this is meant to be an engagement — so the idea of the guide is to open-source it, but also continually engage with the people who have provided feedback.”

The company says it hopes that the workbook helps to inspire considered choices that will reshape the future of product design around the world.