Our partner site Project Bluefoot has invited the 2009 Nike Future Sole Finalists to each share their first-hand account on what it was like making the trip up to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR for the annual Nike-sponsored footwear design competition run by D’Wayne Edwards, Design Director at Jordan Brand. The latest Finalist to tell their story is Ethan Dean from Rochester, MI. Continue reading for Dean’s complete Future Sole recap as originally posted on Project Bluefoot, including exclusive concept sketches and renderings of his re-worked Nike Hyperflight design.
Future Sole was a unique opportunity for me personally. Originally, I wasn’t a finalist which was discouraging, but I was still able to work with a mentor on a Jordan project. After about a month messing around with the Jordan, D’Wayne Edwards [Design Director at Jordan Brand] called me up and told me that a finalist had dropped out and I was the first runner-up. It was about a week before I would have to fly out to Portland for the finals, and without hesitation, I immediately said that I would be glad to take on the challenge.
The finalists in the Nike category were given the task to design an upper on the existing Nike Hyperdunk tooling. We were also asked to try and make it lighter and of course original. I approached my design with the idea of utilizing materials and technologies found in other sports that required similar athletic requirements. I felt soccer paralleled basketball in terms of the dynamic, powerful, yet finesse nature of the players in each sport. Soccer shoes tend to be very lightweight and minimal in design, so I brought those elements into my design. I used a leather found on soccer shoes, teijin, on the toe, which then welds into the exposed booty for maximum breathability and minimum weight. However, the centerpiece of the shoe are the massive straps that flow out of the heel cup across the foot and lock into each side (sort of a throwback to the air raid). These straps would be flywire reinforced and adjustable up and down the foot. The overall design combines elements found in the Huarache, Air Raid, and the Air Force 1 (perfs on toe), as well as paying homage to the Bowerman philosophy of minimalism, making it very iconic, yet it also integrates these parts in a unique way.
After getting the project, I pulled a couple all-nighters trying to bring the shoe together in a functional, practical manner. My mentor [Denis Dekovic, Senior Designer at Nike Women's Training] was incredibly helpful and encouraging during this process, as well as D’Wayne and a few others that I met along the way. Everything was moving at such a high pace that I had little time to take it all in. I would send a few sketches per email, each of them would critique them, I made some changes, sent them back and so on. The design wasn’t perfect, but I felt confident heading to Portland and more importantly proud for being able to pull a design together in such a short period of time. In retrospect, I would do it over and over again, considering everything I was able to do and see at Nike WHQ and Portland.
The first day in Portland was in anticipation for the next, when we would go and tour the Nike campus. We had dinner with D’Wayne and the rest of the finalists and their families. D’Wayne had some really great insights into the industry, and gave us an insiders opinion on schools and ways to break in to the business. Then on Sunday we were able to tour the Nike campus, and a couple of the design spaces. It was incredible to visit the place after only seeing pictures and videos of it. It was everything I expected and more.
Monday, the day of the presentations, started off with all the finalists eating at Cafe 19. Afterwards we toured around some more while our presentation boards were being setup. We then were able to see our fully rendered and modeled shoes, all of which turned out amazing. Later on we all gave our presentations in front of a few of the design elites at Nike and the winners were announced (Jason Mayden was the MC). Even though I didn’t win, the people I met and the experience of being a finalist is still incomparable and I definitely won’t forget any of it. The amount I learned from starting with sketching my original entries up until now proves that the most important aspect of Future Sole is the experience. I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to participate this year, to D’Wayne and my mentor Denis Dekovic, and I’d encourage anyone interested to definitely engage themselves, and fully take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity. -Ethan Dean, 2009 Nike Future Sole Finalist
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