This will be a series of blog posts as I recall the Pensole Future of Footwear 2013 competition experience. I wanted to hold off blogging about the competition until its end. This week, we went to the FN PLATFORM MAGIC footwear trade show to present our designs to industry professionals. I was lucky enough to be one of the finalists in my category.
I will try (and most probably fail) to write only about the design thinking/process and less about the experience for this post. The class experience should be for a few more blog posts as it is hard to put in a few words what we went through in the 4-week Pensole class. Stay tuned!
“There are two important things that will happen in your life. The day you were born and the day you find out why.”
I’m in PORTLAND!
Pensole Future of Footwear 2013 day 1. The class is divided into kids, dress, made in the USA, performance, lifestyle and sustainable categories. I ended up in the performance category. The brief was to design a shoe that uses 3D printing technology, be it partly or as a whole. That’s it, the rest of the brief like branding, consumer, story, etc. is up to us.
3D printing? The rest is up to us? I was expecting more information from the design brief. I know myself enough to say that this is going to be a long process of figuring out where to start. I tend to overthink things (as Dwayne Edwards agrees) in usual situations what more for this?
I was jumping from idea to idea of what sport I would design a 3D printed shoe for. Track sport? Cycling? Weightlifting? Golf? Space tourism? I begin research to have a grasp of what 3D printing is and what it can do for the footwear industry. I read a few articles, discussed with my other classmates and did a quick SWOT analysis of the technology. What stood out for me was the already available, small and relatively portable 3D printer. There are a variety of available printers and one could be as close to the size of a large laserjet printer. Another point is the option to use recycled HDPE or ABS plastic (thank you Lindsey Bench!) from milk jugs or bottle caps as filament. I decided I want to work with those tech opportunities for this project.
As for the kind of shoe, I was still undecided. Almost everybody else had their project directions pinned down but I wanted to make sure to come up with something smart and cool. So I went to Dwayne to update him on my research progress and ask for his opinion. We exchanged ideas, wrestled with a few suggestions and after a few minutes we eventually agreed on my design direction. He reminded me of what and how I should design and not think too much if it’s cool or unique. I wasn’t sure if I agree with the direction he wanted for me to be honest. I had a feeling during the first day that this is what he wanted me to do so I made sure to I steer clear of it when thinking of project ideas. I find challenge in doing the unexpected with respect to design. I always try to review the accepted. Question why it is how it is, how it got there and maybe come up with something better. But this time I decided to trust Dwayne’s vision. He eventually made me curious about what he sees I can do with this project. So in the end, doing the expected, uninteresting thing became interesting to me. Overthinkapalooza.
“Education is not a way to escape poverty – it is a way of fighting it.” – Julius Nyerere, former president of the United Republic of Tanzania
I can easily spend around $6-8 per meal buying from the food carts while I was at Pensole. I can finish an order most of the time and sometimes I have leftovers I eat for the next meal. I try to keep within a daily allowance of $15 to have enough funds for the duration of the competition.
In the Philippines, you need to earn around Php 260 a day to stay above the poverty line. Php 260 a day to feed, clothe and provide for a family of 5. Php 260 roughly is around $6, just enough for a single meal for one person here in the US. Poverty affects us all not just those living in it. 1 in every 4 families in the Philippines can’t provide for own their basic needs.
I believe change can be achieved through quality education. Education permits us to question and wonder beyond what is handed to us. It gives us a fighting chance for change in whatever economic or social status we are in. We are still a developing country.
Basic education is provided by public schools. Students in poverty-stricken areas in the Philippines have no choice but to walk as far as 10 km every day to go to school. They walk barefoot to prevent shoe wear and prolong its use. Chances are, they share the same pair with several siblings as they take turns going to school in the morning and in the afternoon.
A simple gesture of providing a hard to come by basic need like foot covering can uplift a child and help build dignity and self-worth. It could improve a child’s attitude towards learning. Encourage a child to dream.
As inspiration, I looked for images of endemic plants, animals and locally designed furniture. I felt the strong and graceful wing movements of the Philippine monkey eating eagle should be the driving theme for the design. I liked the visual effect of the negative space in the glass-wing butterfly and the black coral. I used the python’s movement qualities of being low to the ground and almost draping over the terrain as reference for how the shoe should feel. Filipino modern furniture design and pattern was referenced for the over-all visual of the shoe.
After that discussion with Dwayne, we agreed that in the end, it should be a basic foot covering. That would save on the material volume and cost to 3D print the shoe. With that set, the challenge was to come up with something that also functions well and is aesthetically pleasing. The schematic design thinking is to build the shoe from the bottom, up. I explored a number of options and did the process of elimination as I develop simultaneous schemes further. In the end, we figured out a way to break it to the simplest form with the given time. Just like in simplifying mathematical equations. Excuse me for that brain fart.
The figure “8” has a similar form to the movement of the Philippine eagle’s wings. It can be related visually to an eagle’s wing movements when about to take flight.
The number 8 can also be tied to Filipino history as the number of states/provinces who first revolted against the Spanish rule. These provinces are represented in the 8 rays of the sun in the Philippine flag. The Filipinos in those times braved to battle their conquerors as they strive for freedom. This is a symbolism for change, a reminder for those who are under poverty’s rule that they too can achieve freedom from it.
The figure 8, when rotated horizontally is also the symbol of infinity. That through education they will have more or infinite opportunities to improve their present situation.
The 8-form also serves as the means to secure the foot to the shoe. It uses the least 3D printing material while still performing it’s function.
Here I was trying to prove the concept and still explore alternate options. I did a prototype to see where the straps should cross the foot to effectively secure the shoe.
For this light hiking sandal project, I wanted the figure 8 to have the strongest visual so I kept the rest of the shoe simple. I added a rope made of abaca fibers, another endemic tree specie in the Philippines. The rope helps to add more character to an otherwise plastic shoe, it provides additional structural strength and durability to the figure 8 straps. The children can weave the abaca rope themselves and customize it as they wish. The outsole pattern is taken from weaving used in most local furniture.
The vision is to have a 3D printing system that can be transported from town to town, school to school. The community can give by providing recyclable plastics that can be melted to a filament used for 3D printing. This system can also be taken to country to country. The same base shoe design can be used and wherever country it may be taken, the rope material can be changed into something available locally or the shoe can be redesigned entirely.
Some colorways based on basic color psychology.
My home for 3 weeks. A snapshot of my desk just before the clean-up set-up for the final presentation:
The 3D printed sample we used at the FN Platform MAGIC show at Las Vegas.
I’ll end this entry with this thought:
You are my adversary, but you are not my enemy.
For your resistance gives me strength,
Your will gives me courage,
Your spirit ennobles me.
And though I aim to defeat you, should I succeed, I will not humiliate you.
Instead, I will honor you.
For without you, I am a lesser man.
— Celebrate Humanity (Sydney 2000 Olympic Games)
For my Pensole Future of Footwear family.
Blessed and Thankful.