Hello guys, maybe you could help me get a better idea about this design field.

I am wondering how long does it usually take the process for an upper design. Do you usually divide it in different phases?

What is the work flow like?


my standard answer again applies - “depends”.

depends on the upper type (ie. technical performance product, more simple lifestyle, etc.)

depends on the company (ie. huge in house team, freelance, or smaller in house design dept.).

depends on the need (could be a quick strike to market responding to a gap, or a future product cycle development project, etc.).

depends what you mean “design”. sketch to spec? incl. or excluding the review process, incl. or excluding development.?

typically, i would say for an average project, from a freelance or small in house perspective, i go through about 4-5 rounds of concept development from initial brief to final construction spec. normally about 1 week per rounds +/- depending on scheduling and time for review.


Hello Richard,

yes, I knew the “depends” answer was coming :smiley:

Suppose it is a performance future product, working freelance, sketch to spec, including reviews, client meetings, etc. Full project working over an existing outsole.

I just didn’t want to be too specific to see different opinions and have some kind of benchmark that could be helpful.

It would be interesting to see different workflows for different type of projects and also know how lond did they take in real working hours and in calendar time.

Again, I know that it all “depends”, but it would be nice to know the average expected times for this design field.

By the way, is anybody using polymodeling in their design process?


performance product, freelance, incl. design reviews, brief to spec, i’d give it at least 1.5 months. maybe quicker if you can get quick feedback, maybe more. 1 week as mentioned per round is normal turnaround in my experience.

what is “polymodelling”? never heard that term…

as far as actual projects, ive done everything from a complete upper concept to spec in 3 hours working at a factory, to 2months + going back and forth with the fty for pre-development exploration and reviews with a bunch of departments.


Assuming by poly modelling he’s referring to traditional non-NURBS polygon modelling (what they use in entertainment and video games).

I’ve used it for student projects, and some people (Parel) have experimented with doing polygons->Sub Division surfaces->Nurbs. Theres definately a lot of cool things that can be done, but it also depends on the shapes you need to create. For something very organic that needed to be built in a very short time frame (for visualization purposes) polys are great.


vs. Nurbs

If it’s existing kit (as you say), then it would take quite a bit less time. I’d get the last and outsole from them, first. How many uppers?

I’d probably spend 2 to 3 days on research, 2 to 3 days on initial rough ideas, then another 2 days to sketch up, meet them to review, then go to CAD perhaps another 2 days to do that. Then half to one day on colours, depending what the brief is.

Specs, depending on how many they want, 1 or 2 days.

This can vary depending on the client. I’ve just done about 40 uppers for a US kids brand, all by hand in pen. Took about three days. The client (actually an old boss of mine from years ago) didn’t want to see CADS, because he didn’t want to pay the extra for the time it takes to do them! Will only go to CAD once hes selected the patterns he wants specs writing for.

I’ve never seen polymodelling used on shoes, but then again, if the last and outsole is already existing, you already have the shape…

There is a pretty interesting poly modeling tutorial from Luxology. You can watch a sample video here: Imagination Engineered | Foundry

Poly modeling is the primary modeling technique in 3DS Max. It is used to make many organic shapes and is primarily used in for real time rendering, such as video games, and web apps. This is also what is used for a lot of character design.

i was figuring in other projects going on if you are doing it freelance/in-house, but yup, the above sounds pretty accurate in terms of actual working hours.

likewise, ive never seen polymodelling for footwear. can’t really see any reason for it, given that a sketch is easier for visualization and most CAD wont help a pattern maker.


instead of luxology i would look at freeform or Rhino! If you have never used the stuff before you will some years to pick it up so if it is needed by the client then source somone who can use it. Make sure you get a design minded person and not an engineer, architects are pretty good mix.

I am sure AI or PS renders and specs will do the job though.

I also find, the crunch thing, when you are freelance, is budget. Most clients are not interested in seeing the thing in 3D, because it takes more time and costs them more money. It’s not like car manufacture, you can get a shoe sample in a few days, so the need to see a design in 3D is not so great.
In my experience, clients want the right product, that means well written, clear, easy to understand specifications.

I have been asked for 3D only once, the company was looking into putting 3D shoe renders on thier website.

I still want to learn more about 3d though.

ya, i wouldnt bother with 3d. aside from maybe the 3d rendering as shoenista mentioned for marketing, i’d doubt you’d get very much useful geometry out a model for actual design/development purposes.


Well I already use rhino and I’m learning modo. It is a good way to have quick 3d models for initial design phases. It has been really nice for product design, but as you say I have my doubts that it could be useful for footwear.

With the new version of Modo you can sketch and paint over a 3d surface, if you are using a cintiq, you could model the last and paint over it. It could be somehow like a virtual tape masking. I think that you can even unwrap the surfaces for mapping, so maybe it is possible to get your patterns from there.

there’s the rub. a pattern is more than the “unwrapping” of a 3d surface. different materials, last shapes, etc. will need to be taken into account for different stretch properties, and movement during lasting.

i know there are some CAD systems that supposedly take this into account, but your average cad package im sure does not.

a good pattern maker with the experience and knowledge of materials and construction process will trump technology any day, i’d venture to guess.

sometimes tech is a solution looking for a problem. cad in footwear (upper design at least) i think is one of those cases.


I only 3D render when I am designing a shoe for an elite athlete that needs input from him/her, manager, medical staff, board of directors etc. Non visual people struggle with the AI stuff but it is great for mass market. The other beauty is prototyping 3D models, namely outsole, all depends on what you are doing