How to get into footwear industry without a footwear portfol

Hi, all… I am a designer has almost two years of design experience from car, furniture to toy etc. I am at the point where I want to concentrate in one design industry and really be good at it. I already have interviews lined up for jobs that I am familiar with (car design supplies, consumer product etc.)
But lately one of my friends has join a large sport shoes company here in MA as a graphic designer and get me interested in know more about it.
I know you guys are in the industry for a while, and will be able to give me very good insight on the shoe industry.
Can you please tell me what is it like to be a shoe designer? How is it different than other consumer product?
I have nothing in my portfolio for shoe design ( only some sport appreal stuff) , how would somebody like me approach to a shoe company? Should I draw some shoes and show them? Would they appreciate rough sketch rather than renderings?

Any input will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Crepes- Post your folio for some more detailed feedback.

Being footwear designer (lesson one, most are picky about calling it footwear, don’t know when that started…) varies greatly from company to company. Some corporations are more design centric with design VP
s reporting directly to the board, some have design reporting in through development or even marketing. Ask the big questions at your interviews to find out how the structure works.

Overall it is a great job.

The pros:

Quick turn around time. Products come out constantly and fast

Responsibility. Most of the time it is just you working on an entire project.

Knowledge. You learn about injection molding of all different types, and hand sewing operations. You learn about ergonomics and fashion trends, it all keeps you on your toes.

Security. People always need shoes… er, ah, footwear I mean.

Travel. Lots of it. You will see Asia (the real parts) and get to travel around the rest of the world researching the market and trend.


Lots of constant pressure to produce manufacturable designs.

Lots of competition for good jobs.

The real pars of Asia usually don’t smell nice (If you got o Korea, ask a local what causes the “golden sunrises”… you’ll want to keep you windows closed at night)

You have the drawing skills to get in for sure. Nice folio. A few shoe sketched around a concept that speaks to you in footwear would not hurt though.

glad to hear you are interested in the footwear industry. I also came from ID, and consumer products, but now would never consider going back away from footwear. In my opinion, one of the best things (as michael mentioned) is the quick turnaround and results. I dont know how many ID projects i worked on for over a year, only to never to go to production or for a client to run out of money.

sketch to first pullover, 3 days…instant gratification!

if you want to see some of the process of footwear design/development, feel free to check out my blog,

first pullover

sorry for the plug, but it might help. also, if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me an email or PM.



I think footwear has more to do with fashion design than other forms of id - particularly outside of pure sports.

I know this is going to make me sounds a total a$$hole. I really respect this industry and would love to be part of it after all the benifits that was listed.
But my salary counts a lot especially having the need to maintain the same kind of living standard and paying college loan…
Can someone tell me what kind of salary can I expect from a footwear company with 2 years of industrial designer experience ( NOT footwear, but some sport softgood equipment)

It varies quite a bit on the company and your ability to sell yourself. It really could be almost anything, but from my experience Footwear pays better than most product positions.

thats how i got in. if you know alot about some kind of footwear related thing that might help, like fashion, or brands, if you can rattle on about the rebirth of puma or what happened to lacoste over the last ten years you could get your foot in the door in places. i know dudes who have no design or any kind of work experience really who’v gotten pretty impressive design assignments from being a bartender, meeting industry cats, & knowing more than them about brands and the culture.
different kinds of sports brand knowledge will help with your existing design folio: basketball, football, skateboarding, if your already involved in these sports it could help.
hope you understand what i mean. alot of people will hire you on attitude rather than aptitude, that could get you a start anyway.

KE’s way might have worked at smaller places, but there are skilled guys like this competing for jobs:

I came from a communication design (graphic design) schooling (graduating this may) and am in footwear design (past 3yrs)…let me know if I can help you out in any way.


Thank you guys for all the input!
Actually…I was contact by a few European and American shoes companies for internships and job placements right after I graduated. Back then, my entire portfolio was only about product and cars.
Now that I wanted to find some opportunity within sportswear and footwear around New England area. I just wasn’t able to catch any company’s interests. ( I tried Puma, New Balance…)
I really think that there is a certain kind of people those sportswear companies are looking for. I just don’t know what it is yet. Prehaps it’s not the right time and I don’t know the right person!?

cool read!!! yep most definitely much competition out here…

From my standpoint I would not be worried or feel pressure based off of competition out there. In anything we do there will always be competition. Even for non design/ job related shyt. like looks, how much $$$ you have, best recipes for chili…list goes on. But don’t think this (competition) should faze you. Or even be much of a motivator. Because if it takes your peers to motivate you then what happens when they are no longer there or you overcome that challenge…I think more of what is needed is a passion an drive from within. I mean cool to know others out there are doing what it is you want to be doing or having success but i don’t think that should be your target or driving force.

I think you should do your thang- see what works for you see what has worked with others an make it work for you. Be real with yourself do what is you do atleast for your portfolio, which should rep. you and your talents.

be easy


yeah well, call me unprofessional but i prefer to work in places where the people have tattoos on their hands, drive vintage cars to work, and skateboard down the hallways. get in where you fit in.

dunno about skatboarding but was cool when I went to adidas headquarters they had people jogging in the halls.


KE is a bad ass !!!

He skates down the hallway with authority :wink:


I dont think your unprofessional I think your honest…You want to work in a place where individuality is welcomed…I wish everywhere was like that!


thanks a bunch!
i deleted my other post here because i was saying how jbo looks like edward scissorhands & he lives in the clock tower of our building with the bats & stuff, and i thought that was unprofessional, but since you’re down i’ll kick the truth.
i will draw the line at getting the word ‘shoe’ tattood on my knuckles tho…

‘shoe cunt’ across the knuckles would be okay tho.