words // Brian Moughty
Over the next three days, enjoy an inside look at 4Cent Designer Brian's experience attending this summer's Pensole footwear design class and Nike's Future Sole Finals.
This year I was blessed to head back to Portland to Pensole, a design course taught by former Jordan Design Director D'Wayne Edwards, who I have built a relationship with since I was 17. However, it was a little different this year as I am also a Future Sole finalist for the college Nike Basketball Category, and this year's contest is integrated with the Pensole coursework.
I actually had to arrive a few days late because I was finishing up my final semester of school. As soon as I moved out of my apartment in Boston, MA, I hopped on a plane in Hartford, CT. The long journey included a flight to Atlanta first before I finally arrived to Portland, OR. I got to Oregon around noon, so the rest of the students had another half day already under their belts. After dropping my stuff off at the hotel, I was headed straight to the train as I found out I had to go out to Beaverton with the rest of the students to a materials library.
On the way, I connected with some of the other students and met up with familiar faces from last year's class, including Future Sole finalists and designers who just wanted to come back for the experience and to further craft their skill. At this point it felt like I had never left, and there was a sigh of relief that I was finally here with my college-era behind me. All of the other students were very nice and came up to introduce themselves. I also met my roommate, Nick Daiber, who is a finalist in this year's High School Jordan contest.
We arrived to Uliko, which is a materials library near the Nike World Headquarters that works with a variety of footwear companies, both here on the west coast and on the east coast. "Uliko" is actually Greek for "material." Since the industry is so competitive, the studio is also by appointment only. Though the traveling and fatigue started hitting me hard, it was still an experience to get the tour. We were shown sheets and sheets of materials used for shoes, as well as ones they were working on to perfect.
We were also introduced to a new software that allows material to be placed under a camera and instantly appear on a shoe template, to give a realistic preview of how the material will look on the shoe. This is something that is still new, so it will only improve and the ultimate goal is to really cut back on samples, which cuts both costs and the chance of products leaking on the internet.
After spending a couple hours there, we headed back into the city and our studio. It was the same location as last year, with is at the downtown Portland-based University of Oregon Architecture building. Here I found my desk and also got a better idea of my project. For the Future Sole finalists this year, we will be working on our final shoe, which is also our Pensole project. Last year, I created a gardening shoe, so being in the Nike Basketball category, I was a little more familiar this year with my project. The class is also divided so that finalists competing against each other are in separate rooms and aren't supposed to look at each other's work.
In class, students had been working on their briefs by collecting images and words to describe the direction they were going in. Each room's students presented their early-stage projects to the group to get some feedback and also ideas from their team members. I started to get a view of the different projects going on around on me, which included things like cycling, children's footwear, parkour, amusement park footwear and much more. While I didn't present anything, it was still good to get ideas going and communicate with the other students.
I also got to meet my Future Sole mentor, Wilson Smith III, who is a veteran in the industry. I was thrilled to find out I would have someone who would be able to share a lot of knowledge, as Wilson has worked on several great products for Jordan, Nike Tennis and the Innovation Kitchen over the years. It ended up being an extended day at the downtown studio, and D'Wayne got us all pizza to show his appreciation. At this point, I really just couldn't wait to sleep and get ready to start my own project the next day.
The next morning, D'Wayne went through a lecture describing different ways to solve solutions and storytell, by using products he had designed for both Nike and Jordan. I had heard the presentation last year, but it was still as awesome to hear a designer talking about his own approach and reasoning when designing a signature model for Melo.
After D'Wayne, Matt Rhoades spoke to us, giving different insight of a designer in the industry. He got more into the physiological process, what a designer should try to accomplish and the right mindset for each project. Matt always has good stories, as he is another veteran and coming from a different angle. He works on a lot of equipment for Nike Football and Nike's Pro Combat apparel.
I then put together my own inspiration board for my project and presented it to the students. Luckily, I got a very positive reaction from the students, as they appeared to like my approach. Throughout the day, new ideas and directions pop into my head so I also make sure to scribble them down, and then dissect them later while also taking the ideas further. The day was done after some basketball at the hotel, and I was finally more adjusted to the time change.
I was looking forward to Friday, not only because I could finally start sketching, but designers would be coming through, many of who were past students, so I was looking forward to catching up with them. It was good to finally lay down the pen and start churning out ideas. I banged out thumbnails and the designers began to stop by. I had some good talks with many of the past Pensole students who have found work with Jordan and Nike, and we not only caught up, but they also gave me advice on what to do now that I am done with school. Wilson Smith III also came back and looked through my sketches, as we both picked out ones we liked and talked about different possibilities of what ones to move forward with. Our task for the following Monday was to have 10 concepts drawn in pencil. I am actually working backwards, since I did so many thumbnails early on, that I just looked through them to pick out the ones both Wilson and I liked.
I was the only member of 4Cent Design out here this year, which was the birthplace of our firm, but am still in close contact with them making sure we are finalizing our own concepts for clients. One thing I learned from this summer though is how to juggle work and work at a fast and efficient pace. It is just something you need to do to make it in this industry.
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