Meet the graduates: Nottingham Trent University’s Angelica Au

As part of our coverage of 2022’s graduate season, we’re speaking with a selection of graduates from around the UK about their work, practice and future plans.

Angelica Au is a 21-year-old BA Product Design graduate from Nottingham Trent University. 

Design Week: Can you briefly explain what your final project was about?

AA: To reduce trainer waste, new meaning needs to be put into the waste material. Given that children’s feet grow so quickly, in particular there’s a great opportuinty to make use of all the children’s shoes which are thrown away.

Most of the shoes end up in landfill even though companies are trying to recycle them. This is because there are usually 10 to 15 types of materials in a pair of shoes, making it more difficult to separate and recycle. The ethylene-vinyl acetate commonly found in trainers would take 1000 years to decompose.

To reduce the amount of post-consumer shoes ending up in landfill, the material life would need to be extended by giving it a new purpose. To increase the material life of trainer soles, the soles can be processed into smaller pieces and used as an aggregate. The tough, durable, and flexible nature of the foam make it a suitable material for seating.

Although there are existing products made from recycled post-consumer trainer soles, such as playground floors, floor underlayment and acoustic products, there isn’t any furniture made from recycled materials from post-consumer trainers.

I feel like the recycled material has so much potential to what it can be, due to the flexibility and durability of the material. Since post-consumer shoes can hold a lot of stories from different people, it is quite interesting to see how the waste can be repurposed into something else and have its life extended.”

The stool itself is designed for children. A lot of parents struggle to convince their children to put shoes on by themselves, since most children find the task of shoe changing boring. To help encourage children to change their shoes on their own, the stool set is intentionally designed to have an animalistic look to blend into their imagination and playtime.

DW: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

AA: I think the most difficult part about this project was processing the post-consumer trainers. Although there is evidence of footwear waste being processed and recycled into new products, the technology is still quite new and therefore not deemed as commercially viable. Since there are only a few companies that process shoes into recycled materials, it was quite difficult to get a 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 limits of design. I would like to work with abstract and conceptual ideas, implement them into practical designs, and bring art into daily life while provoking conversations and self-reflection. I would also like to further expand my skills and knowledge through experimentation in design.

You can find our guide to 2022 graduate design shows here.

More of this year’s graduate projects can be found here.

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