Softgoods Design Process?

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to drop in and share a few questions and concerns I have regarding softgoods and how design is approached to this area of goods. As someone who is very interested but relatively inexperienced in this field my main concern is how the process is approached to softgoods design.

While in school, many of the classes I took focused heavily on hardgood projects and everything in between but softgoods seemed to be an area that has been sort of swept to the side as far as being a requisite in my design education. It wasn’t until recently or shortly before I graduated that I really saw where my true interests lied. With footwear, backpacks, luggage, etc. and as a result I feel I sort of missed out on the opportunities to really gain some good insights in this area of design from some of the amazing instructors I had earlier on during my time in school.

While I understand that the overall general design process of framing the project from brief, to identifying the problems and opportunities, to research, to development, and so on to production should apply to anything. Are there any added/different steps or overall methods you found that softgoods practitioners would take in finishing a well rounded product or project? I notice with many finished footwear projects from experienced or even more junior/early level designers for example that I tend to see many more sketches and renderings and tend to not see as much research presented in comparison to many hardgoods projects. Does it all just depend on the scope of the project more or less? I know that materials obviously come into play as a major difference but just curious as to how any of you softgoods folks out there would frame a project from the start and carry through in a smooth and effective process differently if it applies.

Thanks C77 community and cheers!

From my limited softgoods experience, here’s my two cents:

  1. Unless your project is specifically targeted at redefining a certain type of softgoods product (e.g. let’s make a shoe that’s unlike any shoe ever made), you won’t be performing the large-minded research you see from some other project. I don’t think this is because softgoods are any less complicated, it’s just that if you’re doing one specific kind of product, your scope is already considerably narrowed. Some projects are vague in their end goal. You just don’t know what your final physical output will be, and you need a lot of wide research to figure that out. If you’re making a bag, you’re making a bag. There’s no need to research whether or not bags are beneficial to the human race.

  2. Materials and construction are everything, and you need to know what you’re looking for, what’s good and what’s crap. I think perceived value plays a bigger role in softgoods that in hardgoods because there’s a much wider range of variations on every material at your disposal. You’ll spend hours feeling PU leathers or looking at fabric weaves under a magnifying glass. The wrong one could kill an otherwise great product, and the right one could elevate something otherwise mundane.

  3. Get to physical samples and prototypes as quickly as possible. No matter how detailed you make your drawings and tech packs, factories and pattern makers will interpret them differently from how you imagine them. Production level sample revisions can be turned around in a matter of weeks or days, and it’s an invaluable part of the process.

Thanks for the input!

And makes good sense. I can definitely see why manufacturing would come in as more important within the development process of a bag. Wouldn’t want to find out that what you thought was a good material selection to end up ripping at the seams within the first week!