Angelica Au is 21 years old and holds a BA in Product Design from Nottingham Trent University.
Design Week: Can you briefly explain what your final project consisted of?
AA: To reduce trainer waste, a new meaning must be given to waste. Since children’s feet grow so quickly, there is especially a great opportunity to use any discarded children’s shoes.
Most shoes end up in landfill even though companies try to recycle them. Indeed, there are usually 10 to 15 types of materials in a pair of shoes, which makes it more difficult to separate and recycle. Ethylene vinyl acetate commonly found in sneakers is said to take 1000 years to decompose.
To reduce the amount of post-consumer footwear that ends up in landfill, the life of the material should be extended by giving it a new purpose. To increase the material life of training soles, the soles can be made into smaller pieces and used as aggregate. The tough, durable and flexible nature of foam makes it a suitable material for seating.
While there are products made from post-consumer recycled training insoles, such as playground floors, floor underlays, and acoustical products, there is no furniture made from made from recycled materials from post-consumer workouts.
I feel like recycled material has so much potential for what it can be, due to the flexibility and durability of the material. Since post-consumer shoes can hold many stories from different people, it’s quite interesting to see how the scraps can be repurposed into something else and extend their lifespan.
The stool itself is designed for children. Many parents find it difficult to convince their children to put on their own shoes, as most children find the task of changing shoes boring. To help encourage kids to change shoes on their own, the stool set is intentionally designed to have an animalistic look to blend in with their imaginations and playtime.
DW: What was the most difficult aspect of the project?
AA: I think the hardest part of this project was dealing with the post-consumer formatters. Although there is evidence that shoe waste is being treated and recycled into new products, the technology is still fairly new and therefore not considered commercially viable. Since there are only a few companies that transform shoes into recycled materials, it was quite difficult to get hold of the machines and manufacturers needed for this project.
DW: Where do you see your design career in five years?
AA: I want to continue designing products that push the boundaries of design. I enjoy working with abstract and conceptual ideas, implementing them into practical designs, and bringing art into daily life while provoking conversations and personal reflection. I would also like to deepen my skills and knowledge through experimentation in the field of design.
You can find our 2022 Graduate Design Fair Guide here.
Other graduate projects from this year can be found here.