what are the prerequisites of a good footwear designer...

Okay, let’s get the obvious things out of the way first so we can get right to business. that and it would also cut down on the sarcasm and cliche bound to come up due to the nature of the question…

-talent (ability to draw, and draw well)
-reasonably informed on trends, materials, technologies and such

past that, i’ve been getting a few mixed signals on other skills.

for one, almost all other sub-divisions of the Industrial Design field scoff at marker renderings. they would rather scan in a skecth then quickly clean it up and then do the coloring and detailing via photoshop. now, i don’t know if it’s because sneakers can also be somewhat categorized as “fashion” (beacause the fashion industry also relies heavily on markers, as far as i can see), but it seems that when i see a shoe rendering, it’s almost always in marker. the question is,

-how important is it to be more than proficient with markers as opposed to being competent in a program like photoshop?

-as a follow-up, how important are 3-d programs? i dabble in rhino and have seen the power of programs like solidworks, but sneaker renderings done in 3-d are scarce. i know it’s always good to be multi-talented, but really, markers used in conjunction with photoshop is really how the bulk of the work is done, right?

thank you to anyone who can shed some light to these questions of mine.

do not qoute me on this but from what i have been told is being able to draw/sketch well is important, as is having interesting ideas and being able to communicate them well—not too much different from any other designer, i guess…

on the subject of markers or ps, my guess is whatever works and is most comfortable for said designer, they are just tools besides most of the people that can use photoshop well are likely just as good with analog methods…

3d rendering, again from what i have read, i believe the designers gives the 2d data to the companies who do the manufacturing or someone who exclusively does 3d, and works in conjunction with whoever is doing the 3d data to it is just right, right now it likely is not that important to know 3d programs but who knows how long that will be the case…

edit if you checkout the backpages of http://kicksguide.com/main/default.asp there are a couple of cats in the industry that pop in and talk about some of the necessaries of being a footwear designer

also- hope you don’t mind flying. you are going to travel alot.

the computer work an programs needed depends on also what type of footwear you will be doing-the more fashion based companies like Clarks, Kenneth Cole, the computer is not really used. Most of the designers just use bic pens an white out. But I would learn the photoshop an Illustrator’s just because it makes you more skilled. as for cad. I have never had to use these programs. But I am asked to know how to read blue prints. So even if you dont have to layout an draw out the blue prints you should be able to read/ understand them.

note on markers- at kenneth cole some of design process time is soo short an so much needs to be designed for the lines that there is no time even to do a marker rendering, just simple line drawing to be sent right over to china. An then the prototyping begins. I thought too that there would be all computer work an 3d work but I think each designer/ also companys works differently an whatever gets the job done or what ever is asked of you to do you do. but at a more shoe function company like adidas or nike I am sure the process an standards for what is needed is different.

I agree with dygitalvision. Marker rendering is usually done when giving a formal presentation, mainly for looks and show. I have worked in-house for a few major footwear companies and every sketch has been a clean, technical drawing done by hand. It is the most simplistic way to convey your design and line to factories overseas. Although I am able to sketch using Illustrator, I have never been required to do so.

Similar thread to one of my previous posts in a different topic, but here’s my thoughts on your comments/questions-

Rendering with markers, computers, 3D software, or making a presentation or report is all about the same thing: communication. The important thing is to most efficiently get your idea across and “convince” someone what you have to offer is a good idea.

I dont think I’ve ever been involved with a project (either in the Product Design or Footwear industry) that has stated a REQUIREMENT of what kind of communication is needed (aside from school project, of course). Of course CAD for production molds/parts may be required for production tooling, but these days even lots of that work is farmed out to resources in asia where it can be done cheaper/faster/better. Sometimes even for production design all is a required is a good drawing with accurate dimensions, noted.

There are all different kinds of designer with different skills out there. The most important thing is to quickly find out in what medium you work best in. Myself, I discovered in ID school that I was best with quick sketches, and every time a full marker “rendering” was required it became really forced and looked terrible.Others I know kick ass on rendering in Photoshop but cant draw a straight line! Do what is quickest and works best for you.

Usually, I work up quick sketches with pen or whatever pencil I have around, then sometimes throw some quick color with a marker. As well though (and often in the “thick of things” in development in asia) I also often just cut up prototypes with an x-acto, tape things on, staple new parts together, etc. to mock something up really quick.

check my blog, first pullover, for some examples. I’m working on a case study now of the shoe design process that will show you what I’m talking about.

Sorry if these comments dont really answer your question, but I really think this is something that should be addressed to all designers and better taught in school. Too much focus is on old school marker rendering or new fancy software… Both are just tools! Nobody asks “should I play the guitar or the piano to be a musician?”…its the same thing!

Aside from all that I would say the most important skills required are (in no particular order)- problem solving, communication (try explaining a complicated designsomething to someone who’s first language isnt english!), multi-tasking, and initiative.


Nobody asks “should I play the guitar or the piano to be a musician?”…its the same thing!

bravo. well said.

A question to the experienced shoe designers on here would be:
being fairly new to the game, at this stage my concern is the amount of time spent ‘plugged in’ to the computer screen and trapped in a grey box…

i’ve got opportunties at the moment to pursue shoe design long term, but as with most ‘design’ jobs, if i’m still sitting here in front of this screen for 10+ hours per day when i’m 40, fuggeddabowdit…

so, old-schoolers, how much of your time is spent ‘matrix-style’? & what are the environments like at your level? i find in the corporate environment you will see the human race at its lowest.

odd statement to end on.

Myself, I sketch a lot, A LOT. Only when the design is ready to be fine tuned do I turn on the box. Personally I’d gladdly trade some of the hours I spend in product review meetings for a few extra hours of tweaking a line to perfection in a revision.

I think the unique thing about footwear design is that it combines so many opposite fields of knowledge. Soft goods and injection molds. Fashion and bio mechanics. The ability to make an durable product, with a multy season rear full of monthly launches. I think a footwear designer needs to keep his or her specialty in creativity to be able to react to all of the incoming information.

ok, one thing i am really interested in is the process from blank paper (or screen) to production. like how do you know it is fine tuned enough? are there specifications beyond that a foot must fit in the shoe properly?

there is a lot of back and forth for me.

I get an idea for a new construction, a new way to give ankle support, a new aesthetic, and I explore it through sketches and let the idea lead me down the path.

Once the idea is as fully formed as I can get it in 2d, I do a series of renderings and drawings to communicate that idea to upper managmant VP’s and Presidents, as well as to the sample room, either here in the US, or one in Asia.

From there the idea comes back in a rough 3d materialization and I see things I hadn’t thought of and think of new ways to refine the idea, which I do by revising shell paterns and tooling drawings, sketching over photo’s of samples, drawing right on samples, whatever communicates the refinement. This might happen 5 -6 times, back and forth, unti the design is fully “baked” and ready for production. Each time we test it on the court, see where we can improve fit, comfort, stability, and support.

It’s a process dude, you learn to roll with it.

it sounds as if you get to work fairly autonomously, in these situations would you write up a brief? do footwear designers usually do rough models out of foam?

what are shell patterns?

shell pattern is what you need to make the cutting patterns to make the shoes. each piece needs their own patterns. designers who can read shell patterns can correct it to match to their orginal design or change it to customer taste. most of the time it is done at the factory and with a designer either correcting it after or stand there and watch it being corrected. it also efect how the shoe will fit and comes out.
but i have found in some company that shell pattern is just meant a line drawing. this is true when you are dealing with a oem or tradeing agent.

here is a simple break down of shoe design process

1-research market
2-line building need by line builder
3-design sketches (most of the time is just line drawing by hand)/sole solection and design skectch
5-color ups
6-tech drawing for sole (either done in house or send overseas- either way it will end up in china to be have a sample mold being opened)
7-tech drawing / shell pattern for uppers w/ sole drawings sent over sea for sample-same time developers will pick out material and tech details. and specs sent over seas too
8-samples made sent back from over seas for correction (if time crunch skip this process and goes to customer for approval)
9-specs retuned and detailes retuned and ready for final sample and confirmation
10-production sample made and produced.
11-1 to 3 month ship time from asia and wind up in payless shoe stores…HAHAHAHA

this is only the basic parts…there is also all the product priceing and all the material crap to go thru…because of import duties your shoes depend on which kind each has differnt material make up and must follow import laws in different countries. and dont even get me started on sizeing and test fitting.

so if your are a real seasoned shoe designer you most likely have to switch hats and be bussiness guys , import guy and developer guy all at the same time.

you will only learn this thru time and actually working at the factory level. and it is a sight to see rows and rows of chinese girls makeing your shoes.

you should see my old office…i had file cabinet of drawing and rows and rows of samples and models and source sample books…if you lite it on fire i would be toast.

to all you young shoe designers. good luck and be prepared to work in one of the hardest fields in ID. and you will travel alot and see tons of stuff…just dont get too wild or your ass will be in jail in some 3rd world countries (had that happen to 3 of the designers that use to work for me). always keep an open mind. fashion side of the bussiness is a killer. and dont be afriad to try new stuff.

dont even think about working for nike right off the bat…they will treat you like a number and you will be designing just eyelets for the rest of your life and get paid like chinese workers (i dont know maybe better now then before).

so good luck and have fun.

The rest of that post was very acurate, but this part was completely untrue. In fact, it is so the opposite as to be almost just as bad. If you get hired to Nike right out of school (a rare thing) you will be given complete projects to run with and expected to produce functional, stylish designs that sell in and sell through imediately. This can be intimidating for a young designer, but it is also a level of opportunity that is rare for a young person right out of school. There are also a lot of senior designers that can be great mentors if you engage theem. Personally I think spending a few years somewhere else first prepared me to jump in there. Oh and the pay is good as long as you work your deal, but that’s on you.

yo-where did you work before nike?

thanks for the breakdown nacho, sounds like a lot to learn, very cool…

There are also a lot of senior designers that can be great mentors if you engage theem.

this to me, is one of the better reasons to work for nike, every one of the designers that i have heard or read about, have talked about the guidance they have received from other designers there…




and a short time here:

that was gold.
lets talk about who’s got family ties / friends in related industries that can get you in the door… & who doesn’t…
also lets talk about the constant round of bootlegging you’ll spend your life doing… :laughing:
with the strangle-hold that corporations have now on things, i fear we’ll never see any more new little shoe companies run by cool kids. thats really sad. (thanks, irresponsible baby-boomers)
dont mean to be rude, i appreciate the sharing of knowledge here.

hey also - that nike rip-off of minor threat & their ‘apology’ ‘by-skaters-for-skaters’ spin job makes me sick to my stomach… :smiley:

yo:no shoe experience before nike?

anyone: how do I go about finding my first job when I graduate? Should I get a head hunter? I had one call me a while back but I don’t know if he will have my best interest in mind. I couldn’t even get an internship…what’s going to happen when it time to find a job? it’s best to know the right people it seems.

family ties is good to have but i dont have any one in my family that does shoes.
as for copies…yea tons…many company only does that. just go look at wall mart.

i have seen so many knock off it is not even funny. evry nike ever made is knocked off…freaking agents selling copies of nike catalog for 2000 us.
they even caught one guy who had like 50 development samples in his dorm and he was selling them off. and if you have been to one of those open mold companies you would feak out at some of the stuff they got. every type of soles from every company is knocked off.
i have also seen the soles i designed knocked off and produced before i even had a chance to open production. then my boss thought what the hell just buy it from them and we did not even have to spend the cash for molds.

as for my nike comment like i said it was very long time ago and i know it has changed alot since last time i was there…very long time ago. of course now it is all new management there so should be a great place.
as for getting into design shoes the best way is to get intership at a big company. i know new balancee takes tons of interns…that is how i got started…back then we only had a total of 6 design staff including intern. and forget computers…we had none…all done by hand.

but you should not only focus on design…that would be like you only have one eye open. you should soak in all the development stuff. getting your hands dirty at the factory level. that is the best way to learn and gain experiance. i know a lot of designer dislike getting into development stuff…but let me tell you when they start down sizeing the first to go are usally the designers. and if you have development skills they will keep you because you can do more stuff.