Design and development process

I’ve just posted some new content on a new work-in-progress portfolio site.

under Concept Development, I’ve got quite a few images from the design process (sketches) and development (technical drawings, etc.) from a typical footwear project, you might find interesting.

Click the Read More link below the first image for the complete set of pics. More text on the way soon, too.

[edt] heres the images. larger ones on my site. R




I love it, really nice mix of sketching, photos. really inspires me.
Thanks Mr Hummel.
What sort of work do you present to your board (bosses), do you do big pres boards, with mood boards, colors, materials etc.
or do you just go from early concept sketches.

Actually, internally we do very little in the way design presentation. As department manager, I am responsible for the design direction and final designs, so much in our small company is very informal…and I have the final say.

Usually, I will work with our designer (or on my own designs) to explore design directions in the rough sketches like you see on my site. From this, we then do an illustrator line drawing that I can discus with sales. This drawing is then the same drawing (plus detailling) that goes to the fty in asia for prototyping. I dont think I have ever had the time or need to do fancy marker or photoshop renderings for a presentation…

Not all designs however are “presented”, depending on the timing.

As well, typically, we work with competitor samples or images of existing shoes to help sales get an idea where we are going. In my experience, I have found that even with the best drawing or illustration, it is difficult for a non-designer to “see” the design in an effective way. Working “by example” seems to help a lot. I might show sales a few different pages of images (maybe 20 on each) to help get a general idea of direction (such as “clean, contemporary” showing lots of basketball shoes, or “technical, traditional” showing some performance running shoes…etc.).

As well, sometimes mood boards are used to help describe the target idea, and material or color samples.

In a way, being in a small company makes life a lot easier. Sometimes designs are also worked up “on the fly”, with quick sketches, sometimes even AT the fty (or in the hotel room). In these cases (usually where time is an issue…which it almost always is), the final design can come from one sketch, without a lot of exploration.

Of course, I would always like to have the luxury to sketch and sketch for weeks, exploring every option. At hummel however (and also in my last job, where I would do something like 20 shoes a season), there often isnt time. I may only have an half a day to do a design from initial concept to final production drawing…

…the good thing this has tought me is to be very “efficient”. I would say that something like 80% of the design sketches I do become final shoes. No time for fooling around and sketching stuff that wont be productive. Its also why I usually do side view drawings, as opposed to 3d views, so they can easily be scanned into illustrator, or sometimes just handed over as is to a fty to make a sample.

…just the realities of working in a small company without lots of time and resources! I certainly am jealous when Yo (Michael from Nike, Jordan Brand) says he will sketch for 2-3 weeks!

hope this is informative!


That’s great work!

wow! very enlightening! 80% of the setches you do make it into production, would you say that is due to your circumstance or your experience? if you were to work in a larger company do you think your mindset would change?

good stuff!!!

i would say the statistic of sketch to production is due to a number of things, mostly the lack of time and a focused effort on my part to be very effective in the design process.

While I would love to have the luxury to sit and sketch, the circumstances of my experience has been in very busy, multitasking workplaces. Imy previous job, for example, I think almost 90% of the skethces I did do, were after 5pm, when Im done the daily phone calls with consultants, checking 100 emails, and usual product range meeting stuff. Time for sketching seemed like a luxury…

Also I’ve had been in positions where I was certainly multitasking as Designer/Product Manager/Developer/Marketing, etc. Making the final decisions helps to, when you dont need to present to someone for sign off, or show other options, jsut for ther sake of variety…

For my part, I also believe that an effectiveness or efficiency is sketching and design also has a large part due to synthesis and observation and “prethinking”. I’m the first to admist that I spend lots of time at work, looking at shoes, and breaking down styles and key elements in my mind. In this way, I can access various visual cues quickly to put together a new design. hard to explain, and not a fine science, but something ive been working on for a while…

I still remember my very first shoe I did, and the probably 100’s of sketches, before settling on a final, the end result (in hindsight) that was acutally pretty lame.

I would guess, that working for a different company, either large or small could very much change my practice of design if need be. As mentioned, its not that I dont want to spend more time, or do more projects, but more a function of having to wear so many different hats. For sure it has been something I did work alot to get down to a more efficient process.


that makes alot of sense. efficiency is probably the thing i am most uneasy about, i will admit to being somewhat procratinator…in part because it almost seems like the pressure of getting something done seems to force me to make a decision whereas at the start sometimes it seems as if i am going in circles…

i guess the necessity of your position does not really allow for 2nd guessing. plus it sounds like you have ALOT of other important stuff to keep you busy.

thanks for the response!


While I’m not a designer, but I’m still trying to find a spot in this industry, I actually have to fight to find a little time to do my things that actually are done in the “garbage time” (…thanks basketball for this word…) on my day or in the weekend.
So sketching a lot is a luxury even for me. So I also PRETHINK (…thanks richard!) before sketching.

Another thing I’ve heard around these sites, is the beauty of the sketching activity and that sometimes is nice to see what your hands can do without the help of the mind.

In my case, though, maybe due to the lack of experience, it seems that sketching without having a final destination (or some guideline…) already set could be even a damage for the final design since it could lead you to create meaningless and functionless designs.
In fact it’s sometimes hard for me to steer totally away from the very first sketches I make for a concept. And next improvements are usually still influenced by these first sketches.
So the first lines I trace need to be, somehow, well thought.

I’m just curious what is the experience of real designers about this last fact…


MC [pietro]

For me, there are two kinds of sketching/design activities.

  1. Sketching for exploration or creating a new direction. Here, I actually try to NOT have anything in my head specific, but just kind of let my hand have full control and let my brain kinda go on vacation. Sometimes the best ideas are by letting a line flow and seeing what happens.

In a way, I also sometimes try combine this with prethinking. If I am trying to design something where there is a very tight design brief for a certain type of direction or product type (ie. a top technical running shoe to compete against X, Y or Z) I will spend lots of time looking at examples to learn the recipe for a product that fits in this category. Most often I have found, it is a combination of recognizable visual cues as mentioned that make a product work and translate into commercial success. This may be things like the % of mesh vs. synthetic, typical toecap shapes, collar lines, last proportion, etc. As has been said many times about design, nothing is 100% new, and in this way a product design can instantly hit certain buttons for the consumer to recognize. My own “formula” for success in these instances is to have 3 new things and 3 recognizable things in a design.

  1. the second type of design/sketching is to solve a particular problem or generate more finalized solution. This may involve a more thinking and problem type approach trying to refine a design, make lines more cohesive and tackle construction or material issues.

For me, there are many uses of sketching and many various goals and aspects to the design process. If anything, I find that experience will enable me to be most effecient and apply the correct tools/skills for the correct problem.

Just my thoughts. I would be happy to hear how others tackle similar issues.


oh, yes richard!

I was thinking to the case when you have to design a shoe for a specific purpouse or a signature shoe, which is the case of the contest which I take part .

Nice to hear the 3 new things + 3 recognisable things issue. It’s quite an easy system to have the right combo of inovation and brand tradition.


I find I do my best work, when I’m in the factory, sitting with the development staff, surrouded by all the materials, swatches, the lasts and all of the components. Then it all fits into place. I can disuss with the development staff, we can make trials and have fittings and scratch our heads and solve stuff. I prefer to be hands on.

If I have too much time, everything looks a bit, well, overworked and overblown. Like the OP, I have little time and about 80% of what Ido makes it to production.

Like the OP, when I started out it took me forever to design product that wasn’t that great. You improve, you get quicker,you get better results.
As a freelancer there is big pressure on me to perform and produce results.

It depends on the client whether i have to do any presentation work. My current main client does not want to pay for it or see it, instead trusting me to get to sample stage and review it then. This is unusual, but samples can be made so quickly and cheaply, he prefers to wait.

how do you get samples made as a freelancer? is it from your connects when you were working somewhere previously?

It’s rarely the freelancers’ responsibility to find or choose a factory.
I work with my clients choice of factory.
I go there and work on the product.
The samples are then sent to my client.

ultimately I think the whole idea about sketching, rendering, presentation and all is about apropriate communication.

I truly believe that the type of communication needs to be appropriate for the task at hand (exploring ideas, refining a concept, technical development, selling an ideas to sales, etc.) , and also target viewer (another designer, salesperson, fty, etc.).

This is something I have found many designers loose sight of, especially inexpereinced ones.

Renderings are fun and all (they really can be!), but the shoe business is a business, and it may be no help at all and take far too much time to do a rendering if only the factory needs to understand a design. Likewise, really sexy 3d drawings with exagerated perspective can really mess things up for a pattern maker, and most sales people have no idea what they are looking at seeing a tech drawing.

Remember, drawings, sketching, CAD, rendering, etc. is only a means to an end…the final shoe, on time, with the right design is the ultimate goal!


well put

One thing I noticed a few years ago is that inexerienced pattern cutters will try and take the design lines for their standard straight off your drawing. (As opposed to drawing them on the last and taking the standard off that). Naughty but it happens time and time again.

If you give them 2D lateral and medial side views of your designs that are identical in proportion to the last (photograph the last and outsole from each side and use that as a basis for your specs), there is much less chance of a f**k up. Even if they aren’t planning to cheat you’ll get much better samples, because it is easier for the pattern cutter to match our design up to the 3D last as the proportions will be the same.

the things with pattern makers, as Yo mentioned earlier, is that it IS an art, more than a science. I’ve even had the experience where the same drawing was sent to two different factories for samples, and the result was like night and day.

I think you can actually tell a lot about a fty by the skill of their pattern cutter. I’ve once even actually caught a trading company trying to cheat, moving a style to a different fty, by looking at a new development sample that was visibly not as good in pattern making as I would expect from the correct fty…

A good pattern maker should also be very helpful in solving problems too. There is more than meets the eye to pattern making, like ensuring the lasting margin is correct, the pattern is tight on the last, and also efficient use of material.

I worship good pattern makers!


It is an art not ascience, I agree. When I was a student I was trying to cut the pattern for a high heeled boot, with no centre seam. I was trying to spring the pattern (make a 2D pattern which takes into account the amount of ‘give’ and ‘stretch’ so that the boot will fit the last once the upper is made up,with no creases or pulls). I asked three different tutors and got three totally different answers. In the end I worked in out myself and found my own way of doing it.

If you can, I’d recommend anyone to go on a short pattern cutting course. It can be really beneficial. It can save so much time in the factory if you understand pattern engineering, you can then often solve problems yourself and then get exactly what you want. Especially considering the inexperence of some the Chinese factory pattern cutters (just six months in the job isn’t unusual). We never had that problem in European factories!

I love you Richard ! lol

THANKS YOU for sharing your work :exclamation: