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Design For Manufacture

Johannes von Schoenebeck

Hello! I am Johannes, a German designer and trained furniture maker now based in London. My expertise includes classic furniture, product design, and conceptual art; the latter gives me the opportunity to venture beyond the realm of traditional problem solving. However, I fundamentally approach art and design from a critical standpoint, to ensure that I add value to all my projects.

I believe in keeping designs minimal and feasible for the purpose that it is built for. When it comes to the depth of the details, I am passionate about refining them to serve a functional and unambiguous purpose. A recent success of this is an award for a wooden bench launched in 2020, which is manufactured locally in Bavaria. Currently I am working on a commission, that involves a nesting chair, bespokely designed to fit a family home with limited dining space.

Stoic philosophy deeply influences the intangible aspects of my work, and it has shaped the way I approach and view my surroundings. This has especially influenced my photography, which I no longer consider to just be a skill I have recently picked up, but it now serves as a lens to transform these stoic exercises from the theoretical into reality. 

Johannes von Schoenebeck

The summit of this speculative journey through the RCA was the final project ‘New Work Life Balance’.

In simple terms, it is a device that ‘dictates’ your life when working from home. The shoes create a nudge to adjust your behaviour, which ultimately leads to a better daily structure and healthier work/life balance.

The project is sparked by the relevant insights of our post-pandemic learnings and its design is heavily driven by the underlying research.

This body of work might not propose a solution, but rather questions what will, and what should remain going forward.


In a future where the boundaries of life and work weaken, this speculative work aims to reinforce them.

Propelled by the pandemic, working environments move away from the traditional office building approach, towards a decentralised remote work- ing concept. With that, the physical separation of the work life and the not-work life will become less strong, leading to an entanglement of professional and private time spend.

This body of (design-) work incorporates different psychological and physiological methods bringing it together in form of footwear for the home office environment.


Rubber, Felt, 3D Mesh, Leather
'The Breating Heel'
'The Breating Heel' — Shape changing deflation of the heel creating the Nudge
Proof of Concept
Proof of Concept — Change of posture (left) and change of gait (right).
Time Delay
Time Delay — The gradual change in shape is creating the nudge over time, influencing the behaviour of the user.

When the body weight of the user puts the heel under pressure, it deflates over a period of time. This changes the shape of the shoe, decreases its heel height and alters the posture of the user with it.

The gradual change happening over time creates the nudge. But when the weight is released (by sitting down) the chamber re-inflates, increasing the heel to its former height, inciting the movement that was taken away before. It therefore creates the ‘counter-nudge’, balancing out a timed, daily structure.

Components — Constructed with traditional shoe making methods ensures repairability. The soles are made from recycled rubber, so the old soles go back to get shredded down and moulded into new ones.
Solenoid Valve
Solenoid Valve — This standard, spring open, solenoid valve has a tiny hole through the centre of the plug. This lets the air escape at a certain rate, which is defined by the diameter of the hole. As its standard position is ‘open’, higher pressure is needed to close it. Taking steps or standing in the shoe, increases the pressure from inside the chamber, closing the valve tight. How fast the chamber re-inflates, is controlled by the density of the PU foam and the opening of the valve.
Prototype — Super lightweight with the necessary flexibility.
Materials — Sourced ethically and sustainably. The mesh is made from a blend of merino wool and wood fibres. The felt toe cap relies on merino wool only. The rubber for the sole can be injection moulded from recycled polymers.
'The Slide'
'The Slide' — First iteration, a popular form of footwear in the domestic environment. Its design houses the inflation-deflation mechanism in the injection moulded sole.
'The Brick'
'The Brick' — Second iteration. General blocky and chunky shape, as the visual appearance should transport the ‘tying to the desk’ idea. A breathable mesh keeps the sole on the foot. It also provides a sensation, a change of feeling, during the act of putting it on or off.
'Two Volumes'
'Two Volumes' — Third iteration, breaking up the design of the sole in two volumes. Disconnecting the heel from the ball of the foot is technically and visually more sensible.
Interviews — Conducted in form of interviews across the demographic. These open-ended conversations gave the relevant insights to the topic. It was observed that the daily structure shifted and created a blur between life and work. Psychological speaking, this must not be a long term solution.
Point of Intervention
Point of Intervention — The challenge is to design an intervention that reconstitutes the work/life balance, helps to separate working hours from free time or helps to prevent a distortion of perception.
Uniforms — Besides uniforms of soldiers, delivery drivers or McDonalds employees, the white collar of the corporate world can also be considered a uniform. In other terms, every task specific piece of clothing is a uniform. Speaking from experience as a tradesman in the industry for 3 years, the work day did not really end until I changed out of the clothes I was wearing at the workshop.
Uniforms and Footwear
Uniforms and Footwear — The two extremes. One were the human body lets down all guards and the other where exactly that could be very lethal. Why couldn’t be the best of these two worlds combined? Purpose-built footwear for the work from home, a tool for the job.
Self Experiment
Self Experiment — For two weeks, I was putting on shoes when working on this thesis. Because these shoes feel different to none or some comfortable slides, it created a mental connection to getting work done. Also simply putting them on, started the day. The effect was, that my productivity increased and it helped me to establish some sort of routine.
The High Heel Effect
The High Heel Effect — It changes your posture and how you carry yourself, but it also changes how you are perceived wearing higher heels. The more upright position gives you a boost in confidence. It simply makes taller, which you are usually not used to. For this effect to be recognised immediately, 2 cm are already enough.
The Negative Slope
The Negative Slope — Japanese 'Geta' shorten the gait enormously and make you aware of every single step you take. They force you bundling together trips, as you want to save on steps you want to walk. These modified ‘Geta’ investigate the negative slope. With a higher ball of the foot, you are immobilised even further.
Variable Heel Height
Variable Heel Height — This proof of concept explores the deflation over time. It has the negative slope build in, and just the heel part deflates. That is solved by carefully poking a hole through the valve of the pump bag. The inflating needs to be done manually in a regular pattern.
Testing Criteria
Testing Criteria — Investigating the effect. A: Testing the notion of uniform, relating to the self experiment. B: Testing if the nudge works. C: Testing if the nudge has the intended effect.
Outcomes — The breathing motion leads to a change in daily structure and increased the awareness of steps significantly.
Timeline — Periods of work became evenly spaced out through the day. Breaks became longer. Time was used more efficiently. The work day ended earlier, but with the same productivity and output.
The Sweet Spot
The Sweet Spot — Analysis of positioning the shoe in the landscape of footwear. Between the domestic nature of a slide and the very formal occasions of pumps, and between the casual, sporty appearance of a sneaker and the lack of comfort of a leather court shoe.