Project Bluefoot has exclusively invited all four Nike Future Sole 2009 Finalists to share their first-hand experience on the annual Nike-sponsored design competition and trip up to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR. The experience series launches today with 2009 Future Sole Finalist: Daniel Gold. Continue reading for his complete Future Sole recap as originally posted on Project Bluefoot, including exclusive rendering images of Gold’s Melo M6 re-design.
My Future Sole journey started with a banner I saw on Sole Collector advertising the contest. I went to futuresole.com and nervously read the contest premise and rules, anticipating there would be a catch because it seemed too good to be true. I have been obsessed with Jordans ever since I was six and saw a pair of Playoff XIII’s, and art has always been a passion of mine. For years I have dreamed of designing shoes professionally for a living, but had never gone as far to design my own pair from scratch. However, I taught myself Adobe Photoshop in middle school to add my own colors and patterns to different sneakers, so I knew I had the technical skill to handle the contest. When I saw the Future Sole contest I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet (no pun intended) and work my way through the process of designing a shoe.
It was very humbling to find out that my design was in the final six of the Jordan category because it meant NIKE had taken notice of what I had done, but my goal was really getting to NIKE to see where the magic happens. When D’Wayne Edwards announced on Obsessive Sneaker Disorder that I was a finalist headed to Beaverton, I felt like Charlie finding a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Factory.
I was convinced the final challenge in the Jordan category would be to design a signature shoe for Dwyane Wade. The final challenge kicked off right on the heels of the announcement Wade was the latest member of Team Jordan, so I figured Austin Jermacans and I would be responsible for developing a look and feel for Wade’s inaugural Jordan. However, we were assigned to redesign the Melo M6 by utilizing the original tooling and redesigning the upper. I was paired up with Mark Miner, who mentored me through the process of designing the shoe. He was a great resource to bounce ideas off of, and was very effective at helping me maximize the performance of my sneaker.
My approach to designing my final shoe was to create a lockdown fit for the foot and work my way out, highlighting the aesthetics only after I could ensure the foot would enjoy the shoe as much as the eyes. Just to briefly sum up what I described to the judges… I drew on wings as my main inspiration which manifested itself in three different ways. Hummingbirds piqued my interest because of their agility and lightweight bodies, Nike Winged Victory because of the flowing nature of the statue’s wings, and tuxedo wing-tipped shoes because of their classy nature. Having to create an over-last piece on the lateral side of the shoe was the biggest challenge in the brief for me because I was afraid of having a random element on the side that might give the redone M6 a static look. By calling on the wings theme I tried to avoid that trap, and give my over-last panel a sense of integration with the whole shoe. I took the iridescent look of hummingbirds feathers by constructing this panel from “faux-posite” so that at any angle the light caught would reflect a different shade from the Nugget’s jersey. My favorite design element of my sneaker is the perforations on the toe I rearranged from wing-tipped shoes to be Melo’s “M” logo, instead of little swirls you’d expect to find on high end footwear.
The experience of actually going to Beaverton certainly lived up to all the hype I built up in my head. NIKE put us up in a very nice hotel in downtown Portland, and they were extremely accommodating when I requested to bring along both my parents and brother to share in the experience with me. The first night the four finalists and our families got to meet and go to dinner with D’Wayne Edwards. That was truly a pleasure because D’Wayne is like the Tony Dungy of footwear design, in the sense that everything he says is thoughtful, and he takes great pride in mentoring others (whether they can sketch a great shoe design or not) now that he has reached such personal success.
The next day we met back up with D’Wayne, and met Dee Wells and Sean Williams (both from Obsessive Sneaker Disorder) at NIKE’s World Headquarters for a tour. The campus was, simply put, spectacular. I thought NIKE spent the majority of its earnings on outfitting the University of Oregon’s football team, but they may actually drop more on their landscaping bill. We proceeded to tour the campus pretty thoroughly. It’d be easy for me to gloat and say my favorite part was all the stuff I can’t tell you about, but I really enjoyed the exhibit of NIKE’s (or should I say Blue Ribbon Sports’s) earliest history in the Steve Prefontaine building. The lobby of the recently rededicated Michael Jordan Building was definitely a highlight for me as well because of how stocked it is with classic shoes, pictures, and memorabilia honoring the greatest athlete of all time, and his footwear. Later that day we went to the NIKE Employee Store to spend the gift cards we received. After that we all went to dinner and met our mentors in person for the first time.
The next morning we arrived back at NIKE and were greeted by a camera crew there to document our experience. We all had breakfast and wandered around a bit before heading up to the Jerry Rice building for the unveiling of our Z-Corp models and design boards. I felt like a dad examining my newborn son after speculating how his sonogram would come alive in three dimensions. From there we broke off with our mentors to smooth out our presentations for the judges. Mark took me to the area where he works and I had a nice opportunity to see what his day to day responsibilities entail as he develops and tests new designs and technologies.
From there we headed down to make our final presentations. It felt good to pitch my shoe to the judges and take them through the path I took to arrive at my redone M6. Even though I wasn’t chosen as the winner, getting to NIKE and meeting all the people that I’d love to call coworkers one day, was really an amazing experience. I feel extremely fortunate that this contest was made available to me, and could not be more appreciative of the kindness everyone who worked at NIKE exuded towards my family and me. I especially want to thank Mark for volunteering to mentor me, and D’wayne for making the entire experience possible. Finally, to anyone who is considering entering the upcoming Future Sole contests, I would highly recommend it. Just make sure you give it your all and take no shortcuts, because this is not the kind of opportunity you want to take for granted. None of your competition will.
-Daniel Gold, 2009 Nike Future Sole Finalist
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