In honour of National Careers Week, we would like to give our young people an insight into a variety of different jobs, as well as the different avenues they can take to get there. As part of this, Jake, a Footwear Colour and Material Designer has written the below blog to do just that...
What does a typical day look like in your job role?
Colour and materials are a fundamental part of any shoe. I work on existing styles within the collection, updating designs to keep them fresh and market relevant. Many different factors can determine how we design and select materials. Most design projects start 18 months before it goes to market and my day-to-day tasks vary depending on which part of the season it is.
All Projects begin with research which we collate onto mood boards. This could be by theme, consumer profile or macro and micro trends. Research can be quite broad at the start of a season and will cover many things that aren’t necessarily fashion or footwear related. As we progress, we filter down our ideas with the greater design team and the creative director to end up with refined look and feel themes that fit the brands DNA.
We then begin sourcing any leathers, textiles and trims from our suppliers. We run trials of new emboss textures, print techniques, yarns and weave structures. These will then be sent for testing by our colleagues in the development team to ensure they meet required quality standards.
By now we will have a toolbox of approved materials so I can move onto Adobe Illustrator to begin experimenting with how they will look on our shoes. I also start adding colour based on our seasonal colour palette. We have design reviews throughout the season to get feedback from other departments e.g. merchandising and product development. They will advise on anything from how the material may affect cost margins to the suitability of a shoe colour way. Once all designs are approved I handover technical specifications to the factories. This is a detailed document of every material we require and its placement on the shoe. A few months later prototypes of the shoes will arrive in our office.
How did you get into your current job?
I took a slightly unconventional route to becoming a footwear designer. I studied art and design at college but then went on to do a degree in music and sound technology. In my free time as a student, I did freelance graphic design projects for friends, at the same time I had an obsession with collecting trainers and started re-designing them on Photoshop and Illustrator to create my own customs.
As my designs improved, I shared them with other shoe collectors and designers I’d met over the years. One of them had his own footwear design consultancy and had been in the industry for many years, I started sending him designs and he would share his knowledge. He offered me a design internship where I gained experience on real-life projects learning about shoe construction and manufacturing techniques, this enabled me to meet other people in the industry and find a full-time job.
What is the best thing about your job?
My favourite aspect of the job is seeing a design go from drawing to a real shoe. The day the samples arrive in the office is the best day of the season. I love being around textiles every day, searching for innovative materials and finding creative ways to use them.
What are the challenges you face when doing your job and how do you overcome them?
One of the most important skills I’ve developed as a designer is how to pitch ideas successfully. You could have the greatest idea but the ability to communicate it in a way non-designer can also understand is a key part to it becoming a success. It takes time to get comfortable with pitching, I’ve found the more often I do it the less daunting it is. Whether it’s explaining a design concept to a friend or peer first, then you’ll be better prepared for presenting it to a wider audience or more formal situation.
What advice would you give to a young person who is just starting their journey into the working world?
Finding a mentor is so important especially if the career you’re pursuing is slightly unusual. There are lots of experienced people out there who have years of industry knowledge and want to share it with the next generation. Reach out and start a conversation with people whose work you admire. This could be to get advice or to learn about their career story, either way you’ll discover something that can help you and it’ll expand your network.