Whew. That was fun.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I got in the 1st iPensole online footwear design course under the tutelage of Oregon-based Pensole Footwear Design Academy founder and former Nike/Jordan Brand design director D’Wayne “DE” Edwards and Brooklyn-based OG sneaker talk show OSD Live host and Sole-cial studies professor Sean Williams for 3 solid weeks of no non-sense, learn-by-doing footwear design education. We were a class of 40+ students from all over the world brought together by our passion of footwear eager to get our skulls cracked open and get poured in with the abundant information milk and honey from the sneaker demigods.
OK, that’s exaggerated.
It was a lot of hard-work, long nights (really early mornings for some), coffee and piles and piles of drawing paper. Classes were held 3 times a week via video conference. I was fortunate that sessions are in the mid-morning our time. We would take turns logging in as groups and each of us will take turns in presenting our drawings to DE, Sean and the rest of the group and receive feedback. I take my hat off to D’Wayne and Sean for giving up their usual family time after their day job. They facilitate the iPensole class and make sure each of the student’s work gets reviewed and given feedback.
First week was about getting familiar with the format, ground rules and having the design brief somewhat pinned down. As this was the first ever online Pensole class, everybody was adjusting to the video conference format, more specifically adjusting to the time zone difference. Personally, I’m not used to talking to someone through video calls. It was a bit nerve-racking for me. Pencil and paper, the two tools we will need throughout the course. No tablets, no Photoshop, no Sketchbook Pro. Just the rawness of graphite against the grade of the paper.
Everybody came up with options on what projects to pursue and presented them to the group. BASKETBALL SHOES!!! Right? Wrong. Basketball shoes are discouraged for reasons I find rational when DE explained it. I had a few options but in the end I was assigned to design a space boot. I got the idea when I saw an advertisement about the first Filipino in space. It is a promo by a men’s care product brand in partnership with a commercial space flight company based in the US. I thought this could be the next big thing and saw an opportunity to initially design a whole suit but for this iPensole class, specifically a space boot. The group seemed to like the idea so I went for it. I had some reservations in going for that topic because who has been to space, right? I don’t know squat about space besides basic facts. Then DE, as purposeful with everything said it is a good project since I will learn something new. It will force me out of my comfort zone and in the end grow as a designer and that is the purpose of this course. For us to grow as designers, not just footwear designers but designers in general. So commercial space exploration boot it is!
When preparing my brief, I wrote this short background story to set the tone for the project:
“We are all astronauts.”
-Richard Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
January 1, 1914, the date of the first commercial flight. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line flew 1 passenger and a pilot, 34 KM across a bay in 23 minutes. The plane was made of wood, fabric and wire. Today, after 98 years, arguably the length of a lifetime, there are approximately 93,000 commercial airplane flights in 9,000 airports with 30 million plus passengers around the world.
On April 21, 2008, Dennis Tito became the first space tourist when he boarded a Russian Soyuz rocket and flew 315 KMs to reach the International Space Station. That day was the birth of commercial spaceflight.
The game is afoot.
With commercial spaceflight initiatives from companies like Virgin, XCor, Amazon and Google, the industry could potentially grow to the same number at less the time it took commercial airplane flight. Materials are getting stronger than ever in history. Carbon single layer sheets, carbon nanotubes and other multi-property materials provide the key to building in orbit. Research is young and proof of concept experiments confirm we can get it done with time. That presents future opportunities and possibilities for designers of all types.
Space tourists can have a 2-week “Spacecation” and fly in a sub-orbital spaceship or take a space elevator to Earth’s inner orbit, dock in at a space hotel, work out in a zero gravity gym, run laps around a floating Mobius track or play an 11-man Spaceball game. They can then take a chartered spacecraft to a lunar space elevator and take it down to the moon’s surface where activities like lunarboarding, ATV riding or lunar volleyball await the tourists. Orbital city ships will be built from recycled space debris and the like to support earth-like everyday activities. This all sounds fantastic and out of this world, no pun intended but I could have said the same for airline flight. From 1 commercial airplane flight to 93,000 flights a day. From 1 passenger to tens of millions of passengers a day.
Dream a bit. The possibilities are amazing.
I did my brief with that premise and started to do thumbnails.
Week 2 was about rounds and rounds of sketching and ideation. DE basically gave us guidelines for each round of sketching to help us get ideas out faster. First round of sketches were all thumbnails. I did more than a dozen pages to have a good variety of ideas to work with. I enjoy drawing shoes so the task was a joy for me. The hard part was choosing a dozen different designs for the first round. I emailed the 1st round options to DE so we can drop half of it. After that I did another round of thumbnails, tweaked and played around the design of the 2nd round options and developed it further. I presented the 2nd round options to the group to get some feedback and again bringing it to half for the 3rd round of sketches. That was my basic process. Draw lots of thumbnails, drop half, rinse and repeat. DE, being the industry professional saw right through our concepts at a glance and that made the process a lot faster.
The 3rd and last week was about detailing, committing and finalizing the design. By the end of the week we need to have the final color rendering of the lateral view of our projects, 11 inches long in actual size. I was still doing rounds of thumbnails up to this point trying to further the design. I figured I can catch up and work on a final render in one sitting so it was important to get the design right before doing any coloring. It’s go time!
Final hand-drawn render I submitted. This by far is the largest drawing of a shoe I ever did. The plan is DE will collate our works, mount it on a board and have it displayed in this year’s FN PLATFORM MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas. It is the largest annual gathering of footwear related companies where Pensole is an active participant. The Tagalog expression “buti pa yung drowing ko nakapunta ng Las Vegas” comes to mind. Well you never know who might need a space boot!
I decided to further the hand drawn rendering in Photoshop and play around with the colorways.
This experience was an absolute blessing. I met a lot of new friends, found inspiration in their work and it changed my perspective on footwear design. I won’t name names, but thank you iPensole brothers and sisters. Thank you for the feedback, you made this experience extremely rewarding. In that short span of time I was living my dream and I loved every second of it. I couldn’t get enough. We check each others works and had each other’s backs. Everybody was extra helpful to each other. It didn’t matter if you’re in Europe, US or Asia. We spoke the same design language. We were more than a class. We are a family.
I would go on and share more about this experience, about the laughs we shared and the nitty-gritty of given and received feedback but I would recommend you experience it yourself. Get on that next class!
I’ll end this entry with a part of an email I sent to DE and Sean:
“Hi D’Wayne and Sean,
I appreciate the time and effort you both have put in to make iPensole a reality. I appreciate the lengths you’ve done to make us all comfortable with this new format. I appreciate your generosity in sharing your knowledge and experience to us students. I appreciate the opportunity you’ve presented the class to meet and work with people of different backgrounds, cultures and countries. Thank you for reminding us to be better persons most importantly.
Thank you for inspiring us to go beyond our comfort zones. Thank you for pushing us to explore and focus on the good and positive things. And for me personally, thank you for treating us as your peers.
I wouldn’t believe that this was possible. I was holding on to the slightest of hopes. I consider this experience as a dream come true.”
You must first be good as a person.
Blessed and grateful.