Shifting areas in design

I have a question regarding shifting from one area of design to another. I would like to move to footwear (for example) sometime in the future, but it seems that all openings ask for previous footwear experience. What does a footwear employer value for a potential new hire? how do i avoid getting paid entry-level salary when i have previous experience in other areas (but not footwear)?

How can i update my portfolio to cater to a shift such as this?
I dont want to be pigeonholed in my current area, but it seems that anything else thats specific, like footwear or soft goods always requires previous experience in the area.


I moved to footwear with no production footwear experience. It is possible, but it will be difficult coming from another specialized field. I would recommend setting up some projects for yourself, or participating in the competitions to build a portfolio, also study and other footwear sites to beef up your knowledge. Cutting up old shoes and studying the comments is one of the best ways to learn about shoes.

Some of the designers here at adidas came from other fields in I.D. I think in someways it depends on the company. Some companies I think are more open to taking in designers with different backgrounds to maybe spark new ideas…etc

From talking with some of them, they were not taken into entry level for there work before hand. I am guessing it is different from cases to case.

agree with MD, start working on some footwear projects, understanding terminology, and communicating with professionals in the field to better understand what it is they do. maybe it isn’t what you expect or think it is.



a good thread. i get asked a lot who to get into the footwear industry since most entry level footwear jobs require previous footwear experience (!). Like chicken and the egg.

Can I recommend maybe to move this thread to the Footwear Forum? Might get more specific replies about the industry, although maybe more general replies about switching here?

I would recommend trying to get an internship. Competitions and practice as Yo mentioned is also for sure a good idea.

The big question is how mcuh experience you already have, what level you are trying to get into, and what do you mean by “not getting entry level pay”. If you have 10 years product experience and expect to move to Sr. Footwear Designer with Sr. Footwear Designer pay, it (likely) aint gonna happen.

But for sure great footwear design talent and inate ability does exist and can go a long way in exchange for practical footwear experience.


thanks for the replies! very useful info.

by “non entry level pay” i meant I am not entry level designer anymore, but dont want to get “demoted” to the starter position at a footwear job out of lack of experience.

i would love to go from internship to internship in different fields and generate incredible knowledge accross all facets of design, but unfortunately for me thats not a possibility (but a good suggestion nonetheless). 1) bills and 2) visa.

I’ll go the suggested route and learn the terminology, apply it to some original ideas. Maybe I’ll migrate my progress onto the footwear forum, and get your guys’ feedback!

Thanks again.