by Anmol AhujaDec 18, 2021
Israel-based industrial designer Tidhar Zagagi has harnessed the flexibility, speed, and customisable capabilities of polyurethane (PU) foam casting to develop 'Pixel Shoe': a mobile, ‘one-man shoe factory’ that spells an intriguing future for bespoke footwear design. Zagagi developed the project during his studies under the guidance of faculty Tal Gur at the Department of Industrial Design within Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design - founded in 1906 by artist and sculptor, Boris Schatz. Adopting a low-tech approach to custom manufacturing, the project utilises a moving wooden cart with adjustable moulds to provide instant, ergonomic shoes fused to a user’s socks.
Through this endeavour, Zagagi aimed to explore historic precedents and future models for craft manufacturing, while framing an intimate experience between manufacturer and consumer. Engaging with customers throughout the fabrication process, Pixel Shoe grants users a far more potent say in the customisation of their footwear, potentially heralding an age where large-scale manufacturing is replaced by intensive personalisation. Making use of mechanically adjustable wooden moulds fastened to a cart topped by a throne-like seat for customers, Zagagi's mobile shoe factory generates vibrantly-textured soles reminiscent of pixelated sculptures. While taking his unique invention to the streets of Jerusalem, Zagagi crafted affordable, tailor-made shoes for passers-by in mere minutes.
In this vein, customers are able to make real-time decisions about fitting, aesthetics, and functionality. Furthermore, as a result of his incorporation of brand name elements in the design process - vis à vis the socks attached to the bespoke soles - Pixel Shoe raises interesting queries of intellectual property and ownership in a time where technology has made fabrication and DIY craftsmanship far easier and more accessible than ever before.
Pixel Shoe also made its way to Dutch Design Week 2021, which ran from October 16-24 in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The project was on show at the Van Abbemuseum as part of an exhibition curated by the 1m2 Collective - a platform that strives to bring together new design talent and illuminate necessary changes in the realm of global design. Alongside the works of 17 other designers, Pixel Shoe occupied a 1 sqm display area at the museum, described by the collective in an official statement as “the smallest expo with the biggest impact”. Additionally, Zagagi also took his shoe factory to the streets of Eindhoven, moving between locations to produce custom-fitted shoes for visitors to the design week.
During an age where technologies such as 3D-printing and digital fabrication have gained greater precedence in mainstream design and manufacturing circles, Zagagi's creation fuses old-school technology with new-age thinking and convenience to create an experience that could truly revolutionise current models of product design and industrial-scale manufacturing.