ID in footwear / softgoods

Hi, new to this forum

I’ve just graduated in Industrial Design in the UK and after a mini-project and interview have been accepted to work for a major footwear / softgoods brand.

I’m just wondering what people’s thoughts were in the tranistion from more ‘product’ based design to footwear etc? I’ve little experience in this field, however it could be a great learning curve, especially for my portfolio.

any comments welcome


Footwear is product design. There is a bit of a misnomer out there that product design is encapsulating a circuit board in-between 2 injection molded parts.

The cool thing about footwear is you learn about injection molding, compression molding, high frequency welding, laser cutting, cut and sew hand operations, ergonomics, street style, cultural relevance, brand building, collection building, all in one spot. Welcome to the thunder dome my son. You are going to have fun.

Yo nails it…

In footwear and softgoods, its important to remember that fashion, style and merchandizing often trump technical and functional development. This does not mean there is no functional or technical development, it means that the functional and technical development is often incremental and secondary to trend specific requirements. Its a very market driven field of design, a lot of the solutions you provide will not neccesarily be viewed/sold as technically adept or developmentally revolutionary; but they can be good solid design in their own right.

i point this out becasue a lot of newcomers to this field tend to push the envelope technically seeking to remake footwear and bags; and often end up frustrated that change is slow and incremental at best. I mean you can make all the changes you want, but if your work is not “fashion forward” or “trend specific” or “cost conscious” enough it will sink like a stone.

thanks for the support.

I totally get product = footwear, one of the reasons i applied for the job, and like you’ve both said, i’m looking forward to looking at materials and manufacturing methods i’ve never had experience with before.

I dont start the job for about 8 weeks, is their any advice you could throw me about how to prepare - like i said, i’ve never really had a lot of experience in this field so far. I’m doing the obvious like sketching and getting my proportions more accurate without using an underlay, but is their any good / useful sites, magazines, or generally anything else to do before i start?



If i was you i would try to learn about athlete needs, if you know you are going to be workig on tennis then understand the surfaces the athlete plays on, the dynamic manouvers they make, what is their criteria for choosing a shoe, what would a day in the life of the shoe look like, how is it stored and cleaned, will design ideas make sense at consumer level without serious retail education and point of sale etc etc etc.

Have fun with it and good luck. This is probably the best site to learn about all facets of footwear design…the rest of what you need to know will be already around you and at the brand you join.

footwear design is pretty unique in terms of product design industries. performance is important, but what really drives most footwear design is relevance to the consumer in trends, fashion and design, across all categories. its a fast moving pace, and there is always another season around the corner.

best thing you can do is learn about the construction and manufacturing of footwear. it will make you a better designer and able to take advantage of the processes used to bring your concept to reality quicker.

keep sketching, and learn the market. every niche (sports, fashion, lifestyle) has its own vocabulary and methods. go out to shoe shops, see what people are wearing, and work on looking forward. you will likely be designing for 1-2yrs down the road by the time your product comes to retail so its important to think ahead instead of current trends and what is now.

im sure you’ll have fun. i know lots of designers who have gone from more traditional ID (plastic parts, consumer products, etc.) but dont know anyone who has gone from footwear to other product. once you’re in, you’re in for life, it seems (in a good way)!


Not to mention… people LOVE shoes!

yep, and there will always be a shoe business.


that has been my only initial concern. coming straight from university, the only experience i have in ‘product design’ is two sixth month work placements. I’ve had a couple of interviews with product design consultancies also, with one of them looking to be shaping into a job offer, and i’m a bit stuck as to which way i should be going.

to build on what i know already about product design as a junior designer in a consultancy, or to try something new and work for a while in footwear and softgoods. I know neither is permanent for life etc, but i don’t want to pass up either opportunity to regret it two months down the line!

I did car design at university then went to work for a large sports brand after I finished…

I really enjoyed it but often wondered how it would be designing other products…so I found a job designing other products and really missed footwear. The combination of product and fashion makes footwear a much more interesting job meeting more interesting people.

Now I’m back in footwear and wouldn’t take a job in another product area.

You do meet lot of interesting people, and when you tell folks you design shoes, they usually get it pretty much right away.

As for something to do in your lull, I would suggest studying the proportions and attributes of the various categories of footwear. Running shoes have a distinctive typical proportion, construction, last shape than hiking boots, basketball shoes, tennis, etc. This is often the biggest hurdle to overcome when starting out…

another reason why i like footwear. Tolerances - 3mm not 0.01 mm! Throw it together and see what happens…