A Shoe-rican started my obsession

I studied Industrial Design in Malaysia, during my fourth semester I was asked to design a piece of furniture, I chose a shoe rack since it had a different cultural aspect than where I came from, Egypt. Every country has its own shoe culture. My design process started as a quest to find an innovative concept for shoe cabinets that fit the Malaysian culture, in which shoes are not allowed inside houses, but have to be left outdoors.

empty shoe cabinet

I started my research by going to dorm halls and prayer rooms and observing how Malaysians place their shoes. One major observation was a repetitive outdoor scene – of Muslim prayer rooms and dorm halls – flooded with shoes which surrounded a big empty shoe cabinet. This left people fishing for their shoes when a room was well occupied, spotting one shoe here and one shoe there. Though Malaysia can’t take full credit for this, the sight sparked identical scenes in other countries i lived in or visited, like Egypt, Kuwait, and Hong Kong.

This shoe-rican is not a manifestation of a poor cabinet or shoe rack design, but rather of a bad behaviour. Humans have the tendency to be lazy whenever an opportunity presents itself, even one that involves a 10 second activity of picking up ones shoes and placing them in an open cabinet.

This got me thinking, instead of pointing a finger and telling people, you are bad, please change your behaviour and place your shoes inside  (and how ineffective this is), can we design a shoe storage system that motivates people to use it?

And that’s when i started my research about Design and Behaviour Change.

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