How to Become a Shoe Designer : 10 Steps

How to Become a Sneaker Designer: 10 Steps

Do you want to learn how to become a shoe designer for Nike, Adidas, or Vans?  You can do it!

Shoe Design Rendering

Here are the 10 steps to become a shoe designer.

Learn to draw…

1. Learn to draw…. shoes and everything else:
If you want to be a shoe designer, of course, you need to learn how to draw! This will be your language, you must know it well. Your shoe drawings are how you communicate your ideas. You have to be good! Your drawings need to show your passion and creativity to others. In a design meeting, the drawing that captures the imagination but also shows real possibilities will be the design that makes it!

You need to master concept sketching and some rendering skills.  Do you think hand drawings are old-fashioned?  Think again!

2. Go to school:
Is design school a must for shoe designers? …maybe not.  But the skills and experience gained at a 4-year college or design school will really give you an edge. There are many great programs for Industrial Design or ID.  Industrial Design is what you are looking for, NOT engineering. ID programs include classes on materials, drawing, human factors, etc…  In design school, you will work with many creative people and you will definitely be challenged. Design school will help you to become a shoe designer.

Find a mentor…

3. You will need a shoe mentor:
I have been very lucky in my shoemaking career. Along the way, I have met and worked with many great people. If you are not afraid to ask questions, and patient enough to listen, you will learn a ton from mentors and coworkers. I guarantee that working in the shoe trade you will meet people from all around the world with many different experiences. I count a Canadian, an Englishman, Korean, and many Chinese men and women as great friends and mentors in the shoe trade.

4. Learn computer software: Start with Adobe Illustrator
There are many drawing programs you can use. Adobe Illustrator is easy to learn and is a great tool for refining and detailing your designs. While Illustrator is not a 3D CAD program it’s still critical for you to master it.  If you are an engineer, use 3D modeling software. As a designer, you should start with Adobe Illustrator for drawing shoes. 

5. Build a great portfolio to get a foot in the door:
There are many ways to get noticed and get started but a great design portfolio is your launching point. In this day and age, an online portfolio is a must. With an online portfolio, you can show hundreds of drawings. Let people see what you can do!  Other tools?  Surfing LinkedIn.com can get you some contacts.

Study

6. Study the classics:
Study the classics, not the masterworks of Italian painters, classic shoes!  Learn the modern history of shoes. There are many good books out there. Get to know the classic silhouettes from the big brands. Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of the shoe giants!

7. Fill your mind with great design:
To be a great shoe designer you need to look well beyond shoes! There is a multitude of great industrial design out there! Fill your mind with images – Ferrari, Prada, Frank Gehry, Philippe Starck, Apple, Porsche, etc.  There are so many websites online where you can see great modern designs for products aside from shoes. Fill up your brain, and let your eyes drink up this design stew.

8. Books   Books   Books:
I have collected dozens of design, design history, manufacturing, architecture, branding, and packaging design books. Surround yourself!  If I have a design problem I can’t solve, I just dive in and start flipping pages. The answer is inside, you just need a new way to let it out!

9. Cut up old shoes:
You need to see how shoes are really put together. Learn the hows and whys of shoe assembly. A great drawing of a shoe that cannot be made will never make it off the page!  That said…a stunning new shoe design that challenges your development team can be good too!

Take chances

10. Fortune favors the bold!
Take chances! Your shoe designs should pursue perfection no matter what kind of shoe it is. Do something new and different. Work hard to understand the design challenges, then attack from a new direction. Find a new material for your shoe design, use an old material in a new way. Visit the shoe factory and see what they can do, see what they can’t do. Don’t take no for an answer!

You can be a shoe designer. It takes a passion for product design and imagination to see something that can be. For me, this is the best part of being a shoe designer, seeing the future in my mind and working to create it.

Learn more about making shoes:

Footwear design book Free PFD Shoe Design Book DownloadDo you want to learn how big brands make shoes?  Now you can!  How Shoes are Made will show you how modern shoes come to life! More than just a tour through a sneaker factory and more than your average shoe making book!  From drawing shoe designs to sample development and footwear manufacturing, you will learn how it is all done. Written by veteran shoemaking pros, How Shoes are Made will give you a look inside the REAL world of shoe design, development, and mass production. 220 pages with over 400 color photos and drawings. 26 chapters explaining shoe design, footwear pattern making, sample development, footwear materials selection, upper stitching, outsole and tooling design, shoe lasts, shoe costing, quality inspections, starting you own shoe brand, and much more!  A must read for young shoe designers, sneaker heads, or any footwear fanatic! Over 2500 copies sold! Read in 60 Countries! See Preview Video On YouTube

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Print Edition Now Available!  

Table of Contents:

The Design Process, Shoe Development, Shoe Patterns, Shoe Specifications, Outsole Tooling, Development Process, Pre-Production, Material Preparation, Stitching Operations, Rubber Pressing, EVA Forming, The Assembly Line, The Shoe Last, Footwear Costing, Importing Shoes, Shoe Logo Design, Leather for Shoes, Textiles for Shoes ,Synthetics for Shoes,  Foam for Shoes, Know Your Footbeds, Material Suppliers, Shoe Designers Tools, Jobs in the Shoe Trade ,Quality Control, Starting a Shoe Company, Life at a Shoe Factory, Shoe Making Dictionary

If you want to learn more, check out our new books.

Print Editions and Instant Downloads Available Now!

E-Book edition 220 pages. PC and Mac compatible PDF file. Download Now!

E-Book edition 170 pages. PC and Mac compatible PDF file. Download Now!

Now enjoy the double download of two Sneaker Factory books.

Print Edition, 250 Pages with over 400 color photos and drawings.

Print Edition, 220 pages with over 400 color photos and drawings.

A must have for anyone serious about launching a new footwear company!

E-Book edition 170 pages. Profit margin and Size run calculators. Download Now!

Download Edition + Paper Pattern + Blue Prints and Spec sheets

Start-up Pack is all you need to get your own shoe business started.

Print Edition + Paper Pattern + Blue Prints and Spec sheets

A complete technical specification, drawings, blueprint, pattern and spec.

Computer cut shoe pattern for a classic jogger.  Factory Blue Print included.

Entire pattern size run for the Arris classic trainer, Men’s US 7-13 (Euro 39-47)

Shoe last measuring step. Measures last heel lift from 1cm to 11.5 cm.

24 inch tape specifically designed for measuring shoe lasts.

Ready to Print! Men's size 9 last. The .STL file can be scaled in X, Y and Z.

Great for checking leathers and synthetic materials. Features adjustable dial.

Beaked pincers with built in hammer face. For shoe lasting and sole nailing.

Try the first 3 chapters for Just $3 bucks! With discount code good of $5.00 off!

Great for DIY Shoemaking. This casual rubber outsole is durable, comfortable, and easy to work with.

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