Innovation School Product Design

Thomas O’Brien (He/Him)

Hello, my name is Thomas O’Brien. I am a designer interested in making a change in the world addressing social and environmental issues through a material driven design approach. I have a keen interest in material design and footwear design which was the focus of my self initiated projects in my 3rd and 4th year at the Glasgow School of Art. During these projects I experimented with lots of different materials and was exposed to the environmental impacts that manufacturing methods have on the planet, this drives me to make positive changes in the world and in people lives.

During my 4 years at the Innovation School in the Glasgow School of Art I have worked on many different design practices including product design, system design, service design, speculative design and human centred design. GSA’s focus on human centred design has highlighted the importance of addressing social issues during the design practice in order to make a positive change on peoples lives through what we design. Following my time at GSA I am keen to explore and experiment with more materials and understand how these can make a positive impact on people lives addressing various social issues.

Sole Life – Self Initiated Project
Future Experiences Group Work – People Centred Wellbeing
U4EA – Future Experiences

Sole Life – Self Initiated Project

SoleLife – Self Initiated Project – Designing around the memories people make with their shoes, and also elongating the lifespan of them so the user can wear them for longer.

SoleLife is inspired by two different areas surrounding footwear.

One being the emotional connection people have with their footwear and the sentimental value an individual holds with their shoes. A common theme that appeared frequently throughout my research was the emotional value a pair of shoes hold within the individual. With many people associating shoes with special memories, this makes it hard for individuals to part with their beloved shoes. This led me down a path exploring how one can celebrate these memories but also still make use of their old shoes regardless of how worn they are.

The other area is the environmental impact the footwear industry has on the planet, with a large amount of the worlds waste originating from the footwear industry. As I researched why people struggle to throw away old footwear, this led me to researching the life cycle of a standard pair of shoes and identifying the best place I could intervene. This was at the end of a shoes life, at the point where the users shoes are no longer of use to them, but they have such fond memories with them that they struggle to part ways, and if they do theytypically end up in a landfill.

Following my research in both of these areas surrounding footwear my response is SoleLife. A quarterly subscription service that celebrates the memories we make in our shoes, making the emotional connection between the user, their shoes and the ground tangible while also providing an option to elongate the life of their favourite shoes giving them more protection and a new splash of colour if the user desires.

SoleLife Features

Shown above is SoleLife's features - tracking where you walk to create your own map, casting the imprint of your shoe to remember the wear and tear, and applying our Bio Sole-Ution to elongate the lifespan of your shoes.

SoleLife User Journey

User journey for SoleLife

SoleLife Maps

User admiring the journeys they have taken in their shoes as the quarterly maps layer up over time creating speculative patterns over the cast of their shoes sole.

Connecting SoleLife Tracker

Connecting SoleLife Tracker to the app in order to track your steps and where you travel in your chosen shoes

SoleLife Tracker

The SoleLife Tracker attaches to the laces of your shoes and tracks where you walk in these chosen shoes so every quarter you can chose your favourite routes.

SoleLife Casting

Casting your footprint on SoleLife Impression foam allows you to capture the footprint of your chosen shoe before you continue to wear it more, and grants a place you can display your maps on when you build them up over time.

Applying SoleLife Bio Sole-Ution

SoleLife's Bio Sole-Ution gives the users soles a protective coating that expands the life of the users shoes allowing them to carry on wearing them for longer and even give them a new splash of colour if they desire.

Bio Sole-Ution Sepia Tan

Bio Sole-Ution Sepia Tan applied on shoe

Bio Sole-Ution Sage Green

Bio Sole-Ution Sage Green applied on shoe

SoleLife Packaging

When SoleLife is delivered it comes with your map of chosen routes, a blank casting block and a jar of Bio Sole-Ution

SoleLife App

Using the SoleLife App to select your 6 favourite routes you have walked in your chosen shoes from the last 12 weeks.

SoleLife Video Advert

Future Experiences Group Work – People Centred Wellbeing

Exploring the future of well-being through a people-centred lens.


This project focuses on wellbeing and symbiosis. We defined them as:

Symbiosis – an interaction or close living relationship between organisms from different species, with benefits to one or both of the individuals involved.

Wellbeing  – A subjective state of being comfortable, healthy and happy.

Over the course of our research, the main theme that kept popping up was work life balance. We asked ourselves how changes to the way we work might impact both individual and collective wellbeing, and how we might measure wellbeing in 10 years’ time. We explored these themes across two places in our 2031 world, the city of Glasgow and Azores, a future company town.


2031 Glasgow is a densely populated area with high rise flats and little green space. Glasgow aims to increase well-being by encouraging individual identity. People are free to express their individuality, the population is a diverse mix of people from different backgrounds. There are laws for protected characteristics to stop discrimination. People want to live here because there is an opportunity to be successful. People have free will to make more decisions.

Our response to 2031 Glasgow is Azores. Azores is a company-run town aimed mainly at low income & low wellbeing people & families. People apply and are accepted depending on their individual wellbeing score. People have to show low individual wellbeing to get in

Individuals have to show Increased wellbeing while they’re there.

There is a stable birth rate due to free childcare, no financial cost of living etc.

Azores improves wellbeing by providing a better work life balance, healthy food and increased opportunities for human connection, along with a mutualism between humans and nature.



Azores Movie

Azores 2031

Our future world Azores in 2031. A company-run town designed to improve citizens wellbeing. Azores improves wellbeing by providing a better work life balance, healthy food and increased opportunities for human connection, along with a mutualism between humans and nature, 

Glasgow 2031

Glasgow in 2031. A densely populated area with high rise flats and little green space. Glasgow aims to increase wellbeing by encouraging individual identity.

U4EA – Future Experiences

U4EA – Future Experiences – Designing Around People Centred Wellbeing in 2031

U4EA is inspired by the feeling of euphoria and how this can increase an individuals well-being in our future world of Azores in 2031. My research throughout this project began being focused on how the feeling of euphoria could be stimulated without the use of drugs, but as I progressed I realised I was disregarding the best option for this. This then led me to researching the different drugs that can enhance your well-being and psychedelics stuck out more than the others. With micro-dosing psychedelics being a popular way for people to increase their well-being without being in a different

state of consciousness, I utilised this in our future world by combining psychedelics with the advanced technology of 2031. Allowing the user to control the intensity of the psychedelic effects and experience euphoria at a level they feel comfortable at.

U4EA is an Azores experience that enhances users well-being through psychedelic induced euphoria and symbiosis with nature. This experience
is set in an enclosed park in Azores and citizens of the town are chosen at random to take part. This enclosed park is a wild garden with lots of different flowers and plants for the users to interact with while under psychedelic euphoria. The users access the experience with a remote left in their
home in Azores ,which gives them the ability to control the intensity of the psychedelic drugs by connecting to their Neuralink.

U4EA enhances the well-being of the citizens of Azores by combining psychedelics, technology and a nature in unison.

U4EA User Journey

The user journey showing how a citizen of Azores is part of the U4EA Experience

Consuming Psychedelic Gumball

User consuming psychedelic infused gumballs in Azores Park

Admiring Nature

Admiring nature from a new perspective thanks to psychedelic infused gumballs

Azores Park Model

This small model of Azores Park shows where the U4EA Experience takes place

Azores Park Close Up

Model of Azores Park, this close up shows a user interacting with the wild plants inside the park. The plants and the gumball machine are much bigger than the user to show the significance they have on the experience.

Taking a Gumball

User taking a gumball from the machine inside Azores Park

Using the Controller

The user using the controller to control the intensity of their psychedelic experience

U4EA Controller

Controller with button to connect to your Neuralink and a slider that controls the intensity of your psychedelic experience

Controlling Light Intensity Setting

One of the first levels of intensity from the controller, vision is slightly blurred but user is still familiar with surroundings

Controller Intense Setting

One of the most intense psychedelic settings on the controller, colours and shapes are all distorted and unusual, the user experiences a surreal feeling of euphoria during this.

U4EA Movie