My name is Harrison Lawton, and I’ve been playing basketball for most of my life. On the court, the most important pieces of equipment are your shoes. In basketball, your shoes complement your playing style. And even more than that, your shoes are a part of your personality. For my project, I decided to create basketball shoes. I have loved basketball shoes for as long as I’ve played the game. I am a sneakerhead who collects shoes to wear but also to buy and sell. I’ve worn dozens of sneakers, but I had no experience in making one. I never tried to make my own pair because it seemed like a huge time commitment. But when there was an opportunity at school, I took it.
To begin to understand how shoes are designed and sold, I interviewed a shoe designer from Macy’s. Although she worked with women’s shoes,I she provided a helpful introduction to the shoe world. In the corporate office, she talked me through the basics from beginning to end: how to sketch a shoe, how to manufacture a shoe, how to price a shoe. For example, she showed me how the team starts with 1000 sketches on a bulletin board in the office. They cut the sketches in half and convert 500 of them onto a tablet. Then, they narrow it even more by making only 100 handmade shoes. The team will choose the best 25 shoes and put the other 75 away for inspiration or future designs. For the best 25, the team sets a price after calculating the cost of materials, shipping, and how many shoes are in stock. It was just an introduction, but it was a ton of information. After my visit with Neal Salisbury, I specifically wanted to learn more about sneakers, so I visited Edelman.
Sam Edelman is a company that specializes in the creation of shoes and is known for having very creative marketing pitches. You can often find their stores at a Nordstrom and so on. I visited the headquarters of Sam Edelman to look at models of shoes and their upcoming releases. While I was there I met with Tracy Law. One specific thing I learned was how colors contribute to the theme of a shoe. For example, Edelman is releasing new shoes with the theme, “The Four Elements”: water, fire, earth, air. One of the ways to stay competitive in the sneaker business is to constantly debut new looks. At Edelman, one of the engineering lessons I learned was how much trial and error there is when sketching a shoe. The picture on the right is something that they made for one of their shoes when they started the company. This shoe was a massive success not only because of the looks but the comfort was amazing. They started to use and perfect this unique insole that they created. After Edelman, I narrowed down my idea: I wanted to make basketball shoes. So, I decided to visit New Balance.
My last interview was with Emily Wood, designer at New Balance, where I learned specifically about basketball shoes. The first major lesson I learned is how to use new technology and make it better than the current way of doing things. New Balance has just started to 3D print the spikes on the bottom of their track shoes. This new technology has actually been banned in certain races because of how successful it improves the runner. Another major lesson she taught me is that there are three key elements in sneaker design: comfort, mobility, and appearance. The rule of thirds says that good shoe balances all three elements equally. When designing a shoe for Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, the company thought the comfort and mobility were strong, but the shoe looked ugly, so they hit reset. It can’t be 50-50 with comfort and mobility—a shoe will fail without the third piece. New Balance will start from scratch if something isn’t right. Now, I have some experience in the shoe world, and I’m ready to make my own shoe. So, I visit with a shoe sketcher from Adidas.
Right after I finished my interviews, I knew that I wanted to create basketball shoes. I met with Eric Weiss, a sketcher for Adidas running shoes, and he taught me how to draw athletic shoes down to the tiniest of details. We started with a simple warm-up: try to perfect your straight line. Next, he showed me how to draw a basic shoe. After that, he presented me with many inspirational ideas of shoe sketches. Then, we create tons of sketches until we narrowed it down to one sketch, just like I learned at Macy’s. To create the actual shoe, I went to Brooklyn Shoe Space. The instructors helped me turn the sketch that I drew with Eric Weiss into a wearable shoe.