At the adidas Group, three words shape our attitude and the way we think, work and innovate: Creating the New.
New means change.It means leaving your comfort zone, pushing boundaries and innovating by hunting beyond the obvious.
Last year, new product launches accounted for 78% of our brand sales. An impressive number that shows the importance we place on constantly reinventing our product portfolio.
“Things get shaken up, concepts are refreshed, creativity flows stronger. For me and my team it also means a lot of opportunity. And valuable learnings.”Tibi Iovu, Product Creation Technologies
As a member of the Product Creation Technologies team in Portland, I’ve had the honor of working on a game-changing product innovation myself: a completely new shoe material.
It’s a totally fresh concept which came out of our mission to figure out a way to paint or add colour to vacuum-formed shoe uppers.
It’s called Chromatech.
The process of coming up with it has been an exciting journey, one I’m really proud to share here.
It all started out with testing and reviewing traditional methods such as painting, screen and pad printing, lamination and direct print. It became clear that none of these methods could provide consistent results and that my team and I needed to explore more options to get the quality we wanted.
The obvious solution isn’t always the best – think outside the box
While trying and researching all these methods, we realized that we were approaching the problem from the wrong angle.
I asked myself: “What if, instead of adding colour to my upper, the upper material would change colours during the molding process?” For that to happen, I would need a new material, one that didn’t exist at the time!
I approached my colleague in Originals Footwear and together we worked with our supplier to see if the idea could be brought from concept to reality.
Don’t be afraid of trial and error – fail but fail fast
It took months of persistent trials and testing, but we succeeded in creating a new material with the properties that I envisioned. Chromatech was coming to life!
We sent the material to the lab to make sure that it passed the adidas testing requirements. The initial sample was green, and turned yellow when stretched. We nicknamed it “The Hulk”. Here is a picture of the first molded trial.
The next step was to make a shoe with the material.
I worked on an existing design for a Basketball shoe, and here is the result.
“Then a really cool thing happened: when I put the shoe on and moved my toes, the colour would change almost like in an X-Ray!”Tibi Iovu, Product Creation Technologies
In the spots where my toes were pushing against the upper, the material would stretch and I was able to see my toes ‘through’ an opaque material. It was pretty thrilling – we had created a completely new colour-shifting material.
Team up with people who are equally passionate about creating the next big idea
Collaboration is key and within our team, we all brought a particular strength to the table, from the brainstorming phase, to development, to testing.
One thing we all shared, however, was our passion for the creative process and this stoked our momentum. One key learning that I’ll keep in mind is that even the best ideas won’t be implemented unless people are made aware of them.
You have to promote your project and let everyone around you know about your big idea. And by people, I mean everybody that can play a role in the decision making process.
In order for that to happen, ideas need to be discussed, batted around, presented!
At the core, it takes an environment that encourages you to question the status quo and go beyond – a company culture you cannot buy that thankfully does exist here at the adidas Group.
Once the job is done and you see all the positive feedback from around the world, that is a truly rewarding moment:
“adidas announces another game-changing, color-shifting technology” Complex.com
“It’s the black colorway we’re here to check out, which features a decidedly dark look with the color-shifting Chromatech coat leaving diamond shapes in the negative space.” Sneakernews.com
“Adidas Originals are clearly rolling with some brilliant design minds in their office now, we’re seeing innovation after innovation.” Sneakerfreaker.com
What is Chromatech?
For all you tech-heads out there who want to know how the material actually works… Chromatech is comprised of multiple colored layers. When the material is stretched, the secondary layer becomes opaque to reveal only the top colour. This natural shift creates a colour spectrum unique to how each shoe is worn, so that no two pairs are alike.