What steps to take to one day be a footwear designer?

Hi everyone,
I am fairly new to the forums here, and really admire the designers and work put up here on core77. I am a fourth year student at the University of California Irvine, and will be graduating with a studio art/digital art degree this year 2008. I am very interested in going into product design, and am thinking of attending either San Jose State University, Academy of Art, or Art Center.

I have always collected Jordans since Elementary school, and have always toyed with the idea of one day being able to design shoes for Jordan Brand. I have okay drawing skills, but no formal training in design sketching.

The reason I am posting here is that, being that I have no experience in Industrial/product design training, what kind of exercises or projects should/can I be doing/practicing while starting up an ID education, if I want to get into footwear design? MD and R, I really like your work, and want to know how I can build up an eye and sketching skills for designing shoes?

I know once I start up school, I will be sponging up product design skills and stuff from education, but what I want to know is what I can do on the side, or even now to improve skills or even gain skills to be able to one day be a footwear designer?

Oh, and I don’t really have a real polished portfolio at all, but some of the work I do have can be seen at www.coroflot.com/jthai21

Critiques are welcome, as I know my presentation skills are pretty bad. Thanks in advance.

1.) sketch as much as possible

2.) pay attention to the proportions of different types of footwear

3.) don’t be afraid to post them for critiques and apply critiques to future work

4.) enter some competitions, kicksguide.com is a good place to start

5.) sketch some more…

If only I could practice what I preach…

You have some unique work in your portfolio. Make sure to apply your style to your future work.

ScriptD pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Study shoes.Draw shoes over and over. Sit and think about how you can make shoes better through patterns, materials and construction. Draw that. Repeat. Post your stuff online to make connections and get feedback. Actually listen to and apply that feedback. (See Ben) Repeat for about 6 years. Voila! LOL

You seem to be a telented artist, though I don’t think you have figured out how to translate it into shoes yet. Keep practicing, it comes quickly. Keep us posted on your progress!!!


Agree with the above.

Also try cutting up some old shoes to see how they are put together.

Design different objects. In school you will have to and it will make you a better, more well rounded designer. You will get different ideas for shoes from learning about other products.


This is so true. In a way, you need to put aside what you see as regards other shoes and get your inspiration from elsewhere.

^good points. Look to EVERYTHING BUT shoes to get inspired.

wow thanks guys for all the helpful advice! So when i sketch to practice in general, what type of style do i use, because the way i am used to drawing is very fine art based, but i want to learn how to draw in design style?

Check out some of the info in the sketching forum.

like this one:

I think it helps to:

  1. bench mark sketches you like

  2. think of products in their “ideal” state. Sketch them as they should/could be more than how they are

  3. “sketch don’t draw” as my first director would always tell me

  4. remember the sketch/render is a means to an end, not the final product. It’s purpose is to communicate. You are a designer of the final product, not the drawing.

thanks yo,

i will start sketching as soon as i can and scan them up to get critiqued and helped. btw i like your tutorial section on your site.