Questions in feedback to footwear design positions

Hi there, im new to posting so hi to you all.

My question is to people in the footwear industry currently.

I have been contacted by Nike over the last few months as well as puma to do with footwear design positions but both gave me conflicting advice for my future sports footwear portfolio. I didnt go further with either brand.

Nike said that i should be more ‘blue sky’ in my thinking and think further into the future, whilst Puma said think more street wear.

Now i know Nike is more innovation whilst Puma is more fashion but what is the best way to present your self best?



To get better advice it would help to see your work.

You basically broke it down for yourself. What are you more interested in? Innovation or fashion? The best way to present yourself is the way that will get you the job you want.

There’s no reason why innovation cannot be fashionable, too. I don’t think the advice was conflicting.

Hi Yo! There is most of my work
Some other footwear isn’t on there.

I understand what you’re saying Tarngerine, and this was what i was thinking. Do I have to stick to one or the other? Or can I still succeed in producing various types of designs which would mean more of a ’ jack of all trades, master of none’ in the hirer’s eyes?



Since a lot of footwear designer jump between companies, I dont see how diversity could be a negative trait. You’ll still have some areas where are you excel anyway. Then I think you’ll have to emphasize what you think is important for the employer, in the portfolio you are tailoring for that position.

But then again, im no pro yet.

One thing I heard recently about breadth vs depth:

If you’re looking to work for a large company (corporate), they want depth.

If you’re looking to work for a small firm/startup, they’ll want breadth (as well as various non-design skills like project management, budget management, etc.)

Sounds reasonable. I think that I was assuming diversity within the field, like a portfolio packed with footwear projects for different sports and fashion-segments. I guess that would be probably be considered as depth though… :slight_smile: My bad.

i think it can have some to do with the projects you have shown them (i dont know what you have shown outside of whats on your coroflot page.). Unless its earth shattering im pretty sure nike is tired of seeing jordan and lebron shoes that are basically tweaked from what is out there now and wants to know whats next? again not knowing what you have presented i can only assume that puma is not as impressed with basketball shoes either.

My advice would be to try and do a project that maybe they dont see alot, pick a sport other than basketball, something off the beaten path. With puma they are probably gonna want to see more things with a fashion twist, maybe more trend and fashion based projects/research. But like has been said already different companies have different things they are looking for. Try to decide what it is you really want to do, what kind of shoes do you really want to design? I have found that blindly shooting for nike, puma, adidas, reebok out of school just because im a fan of those brands and the sports they are affiliated with was causing me to overlook huge opportunities elsewhere in my footwear career.

Its not an easy thing to do given that alot of times i know students are doing footwear projects on their own outside of school projects, and trust me a few years ago when i was in your shoes i had a similar issue. thats my 2 cents, you have some nice work though.

Unless its earth shattering im pretty sure nike is tired of seeing jordan and lebron shoes that are basically tweaked from what is out there now and wants to know whats next

I agree - if you want to work for the brands, it’s best to act like their future employee and not a fanboy. Think outside the box and don’t bore them. If you set yourself a project to do for your portfolio make it a challenging one. Don’t concentrate on the same sport (i.e basketball) for every project. Infact pick a new sport that has no product out there, challenge yourself.

Look at the portfolios of designers that already work for these brands. Also agree with dziner that there are lots of brands out there worth working for, not just the big guys - infact I know more designers who have worked elsewhere first, THEN got a job with one of the big guys rather than straight out of college.

Thanks for the feedback dziner82 & shoenista. The basketball shoes were for shoe competitions through project Bluefoot so couldn’t change the sport as such. The Jordan shoe feedback by D’wayne Edwards said that there was great innovative thinking in the details.

Coming from the United Kingdom, the choice of sports/performance footwear isn’t as great as in the US so i have been told that it is easier for recruiters such as the bigger brands to take overseas employees on due to cost reasons etc, but not 100% sure if this is true?

However i have some new projects in working on that reflect what you have said dziner82 which look into new ways of thinking for various sports as well as new sports such as free running.

Again thanks for the feedback. It has given me clarity and understandings in how to move forward


There are a few places you can get a job in the UK designing athletic footwear. I started my career designing soccer and cricket shoes in the UK. Yes it does cost alot of money to take a designer on from overseas - visa costs & relocation etc. This is why I reckon you’d have more of a chance starting your career over here and then looking abroad. If you show talent, you will catch the eye of recruiters.

If Nike and Puma know of you now, then they’ll be keeping an eye on your work and seeing how it develops over the next few years.

Hey Tom, nice coroflot stuff.

I think that I have also been on a similar path as yourself, been in touch with both N + P

I don’t want to put a damper on your ambition because I think that your work rocks and have loads of respect for Cov Car designers.

But here is some stuff that I have picked up on since graduating in 2006
The Sporting footwear industry in the UK is pretty much very limited to small design houses with talented (sometimes) ex N/P/A designers, very difficult to get work experience with but probably not impossible if you are willing to work for nothing and work long long hours.
Pentland, who (pretty) much have most of the UK footwear brands locked down. Lacoste/Boxfresh/TedBaker/ etc etc etc
They have a high turnover of staff so you could get into the design pool and work on some cool projects, worth a shot as they seem to like ID/car design types.
But very clicky, and its about who you know and an almost weird setup were micro/middle management have the say but still don’t make decisions. This is just my experience so please don’t take it for gospel
or the at the other end of the market which is mass market volume suppliers which are attached to people like JD / and other sports retailers alike. You are more likely to get a role as a junior designer working your 9-5 getting paid peanuts but learning quite a good grounding in the basics of footwear design + development. Alot of the folks I went to uni went this route.

I think it can be hard for people outside of a footwear course to get in to footwear roles as the requirements of understanding basic development + production of shoes is quite key. This is the case anyway in the UK because people are less willing to take a chance these days etc etc. So you are best either aiming at one or the other for work, N+P are obviously highly desired roles and require relocation etc etc Great jobs don’t get me wrong amazing development teams, access to the cream of design tec/dev rapid proto etc etc .

Route 3: is learning the basics, which for someone from a non footwear background is probably quite beneficial. It certainly wont be developing the next big thing with N+P but you will gain knowledge that you probably wont learn with N+P about spec’ing/sourcing/costing things which are much more real life to the advanced thinking of N+P. So for someone looking for a career in footwear is much more attractive, plus when you learn about this is can almost help you become a more creative designer in the long run.

On coming out of Uni I too was fascinated about working with the big players and tried & tried, its a double edge sword at the moment with the economic down turn, Companies can really choose to take the cream and still maybe give them a years work and then take the next cream and so on.

I have seen so many guys from the Crepole in Paris have been through both N+P+A and these guys work is by far some of the most creative well illustrated work I have ever seen. Only maybe a handful have made it in to fulltime roles with N+A, Erik A is one of them. He was working at C&F when I went for an interview and possible placement, the problem was that because C&F have a relationship with Crepole they can feed them talented design students for placements something that my Uni had no idea about. So it was all of my own back to try and locate these placements which are really limited, it was only by actually meeting the Global Head of design recruitment that I found out about C&F.

So I guess luck, timing has everything to do with it plus a massive amount of dedication and will to get to were you want to be, which is of course is very nice for the people of N+P+A to have an unstoppable amount of people who want to work for them.

Its funny that I have seen a real growth in the amount of people wanting to be footwear designers in the last 3 years. I think that if you are serious about footwear then you must try and get any role that’s going in the UK because the competition for those roles is so competitive that if you don’t take them and try to hold out for N+P to come along you could be waiting a long time.

Now please take all of this as only my perspective and I’m maybe sounding a little negative, but please see this as only someone who wants to give you my honest opinion on the current UK footwear scene.

The good thing like Shoenista said is that Coroflot is the HR for N+P+A to do search for talent on it, so you will be on their books.

All the best Tom, if you need to contact me for anything then I will be more than welcome to help you. Its a hard and challenging track but you get there if you really want it.


Please excuse any bad grammar/spelling etc

Hey Hotmix, thanks for you post and comments on my work.

I have always enjoyed being at the forefront of innovation as well as details and materials as which i loved car interior design. I had 3-4 speeches by Nike, Adidas, Reebok etc to all wanted ID backgrounds which made me want to progress into footwear further. I understand that not coming from a footwear/fashion course does have its drawbacks, but materials, ergonomics, costing i do have a great understanding of.

I turned down a footwear position last month which comes with a long story why i did, but basically i was told by people who have worked for Burberry, Paul Smith and Gina Shoes that i was right not to take it.

I have taken on what you have said and i agree totally that the big names are not always the best route etc but smaller companies based in the UK are not hiring and to get an unpaid internship is impossible having my post grad degree to pay off and my rent. I would love to relocate as well in why i would love to work in the States. I know you work alot harder but i would relish that kind of atmosphere.

How about your self, where are you working now if you dont mind me asking?



Have you any cash available in order to do a short footwear course? It would help show that you are serious. Hotmix is right, they tend to favour designers with footwear qualifications in most companies. Companies are small and you may find yourself in the deep end when you start, it helps that when you get to a factory and the upper on a shoe isn’t working you can look at the paper pattern and understand why.

Also I know nothing about ID courses, but trend forecasting and making mood boards is a big part of what we do and we learn about that on a footwear course.

The other thing (and this frustrates me immensley), is apart from Pentland (pretty much!), no one will invest in junior designers. It can take 2 or 3 years out of college until you have learned the skills to design commercial product that sells in volume. Some employers expect fully formed shoe designers to fall out of Uni, knowing how to write tech packs and start designing winners right away. They get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Then they moan to me that there are ‘no good new designers coming through’. Hell I couldn’t even operate a fax machine when I graduated and Pentland took me on and nutured me!

I had a meeting with a recruitment consultant in the summer and she told me that no one is employing graduates at the moment, they all want 2-3 years experience. In a nutshell, they want someone else to invest in your training. Makes me so angry!

Hi Shoenista,

Well i have enquired about doing a course which i may complete in a few months, but cost do come into to it a hell of alot currently. Central Central St Martins is just down the road from me and have huge respect in the fashion industry, as im sure your aware.

From my ID courses i tend to do alot of research, ergonomics, mood boards, trends etc too.

As you have pointed out its a cycle in many industries to which are extremely hard to become involved in. Like you say, noone wants to pay the training gap between uni and industry and want to hire these people who do it. So how can you ever find a company to do this for you. The amount of people espically lately who want ‘free’ work in design is crazy. What makes it worse is that most of the time you will be doing alot of Cad work or admin etc. Its a shame as many people i know who have funds behind them from a rich family need not to worry about the cost of living working for free in London or where ever.