It has been several months since I started to work as an apprentice in the colourful and vibrant world of Reebok Design. Each day I am constantly learning more about what it means to design shoes for this amazing company. Not only am I working with new materials, learning about the manufacturing and also the aesthetics of athletic footwear, but I am also finding out how my fellow designers’ individual perspectivesmake their work unique.
The integrative role of each designer to create a new product
The vast array of styles and viewpoints that these designers bring to the table is incredible. But even more incredible is that we all are able to work together and push each other to create outstanding products and ideas. Each designer’s methods may seem outlandish to others, but everyone on the design floor plays an integral role in creating new designs. While designers differ in their techniques, one thing is very consistent for all designers: the need for inspiration. The concept of inspiration is the overarching mechanism in the design process, and it is truly fascinating.
How do these designers find their inspiration anyway?
One of my favorite industrial design professors in college always said, “In order to end successfully, you must begin successfully.” Gathering inspiration is one of the first steps in the design process, even before putting a pencil to paper to sketch out different ideas. Inspiration affects every aspect of how a footwear designer thinks about shoe laces, construction of the shoe, the outsole tooling, color, and just about anything and everything else. But I bet the question you are asking is: how do these designers find their inspiration anyway?
Powerful visual references
To be honest, it is completely different from person to person. People can gain inspiration from movies, music, pictures, art, coffee…you name it! There is hardly a science behind what instills inspiration. Yet visual imagery, gathered from just about any media, may be the most common source. One of my fellow design apprentices, Whitney, has an enormous image library where she stores all kinds of images that she can cycle through at any time in order to inspire her work. Visual imagery can range from a variety of subjects. Being a Footwear Design Apprentice, images from other shoe samples can be helpful, but also images of automobiles, plants, furniture, architecture, etc. can all provide inspiration. Having a powerful visual reference can expand a designer’s imagination and greatly influence a design.
Personally, what inspires me the most is the variety found in nature. Living in Boston, I often take a run along the Charles River, and sometimes I will pause to watch the ripples in the water. The shapes, patterns and textures found in the fleeting motions of water are incredible. Without observing it firsthand, it would be almost impossible to think of anything as unique and effortless as nature itself.
Can the shapes in ripples be a tread pattern for a shoe outsole?
Can the veins in leaves be replicated in a support structure for the quarter panel of a shoe?
What kind of color palette can be made out of water reflections?
The only limit to inspiration is your imagination.
Hopefully, you have learned a little more about the inspiration process of Reebok designers. We rely strongly on inspiration for our work – it underlies everything we do.
More than inspiration alone is necessary for a successful designer
However, I believe that more than inspiration alone is necessary for a successful designer. Everyone can benefit from solid dose of inspiration. The important step in receiving inspiration is to freely open your mind, release your imagination and soak up everything the world has to offer. Thank you for staying with me and learning more about my experience – stay inspired!