Design Insight: We’re back in Session this week with Kyle Strek! Kyle is one of the first designers I met at New Balance and has always been more than willing to give me an extra eye on a project and give me guidance in my young career. Take time to read what one of NB’s greatest design strengths has to say on what design is and how it has become a part of his life. Continue reading Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 3 With Kyle Strek…
How many years have you been designing? What is your career history?
I have been designing footwear for about 7 years. After graduating from CCS (College For Creative Studies) I accepted an internship with the In-Line Running group at New Balance and transitioned into a full time position after the internship. I continued to work on running for a few years and then moved to the Advanced Product Group and am currently working as Sr. Designer in the Innovation/Studio group.
What motivates you?
I am most motivated by how fast innovation happens within the design world. Things that seemed impossible ten years ago now surround us everyday. I look back on products I designed in the past that seemed new and different and I laugh because I know the things that I am working on now that push the limits will be old news in the future as we continue to discover new materials, processes and biomechanics research.
What inspires you?
I can be inspired by nearly anything around me. Sometimes it’s nature and how amazing and purposeful it can be. Other times its art and design. I have always been inspired by travel and experiencing the sights and culture of new places. I also work with some really talented designers and athletes that constantly keep me inspired. Sometimes it’s really hard to find inspiration and other times I’m totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
Where has design taken you?
Design has brought me to my home in New England, a place I had never even visited before moving here and now could not imagine moving away. I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world for inspiration, trade shows, sporting events and product development trips. I still get really excited every time I’m able to check out new and old places away from home.
What is “good design” in your opinion?
I think good design can be achieved in a few different ways. Good design must be purposeful; it should solve a problem or improve a solution of the past. Great design usually pushes the limits of manufacturing so that thing that is “impossible” keeps moving forward. To me, the most important aspect of good design is the ability of a product to connect with people on an emotional level. Most instances when I talk about desirable objects with other designers, the conversation revolves around the emotions those things evoke.
What is your creative process?
My creative process usually starts with some type of research. The research can be ethnographic, product or biomechanics based. After that, I usually have information to design too. I still really enjoy putting image boards together as they give me the juice to begin sketching. I would say my first day or two of sketching is all about getting the shit ideas out of the way. After that, I start to focus on putting together a good range of concepts. In the past I would stay on paper for a much longer period, but now I really like taking basic sketches with me into the proto-shop and getting my hands dirty by making them and figuring out how they really work. By doing this I can prove out a concept with actual materials in an afternoon rather than sending finished drawings out to have somebody else interpret them and wait a week to see prototypes. Most importantly, after taking this hands-on approach I have such a better understanding of how shoes are made and it’s easier to come up with new ways to innovate footwear.
How would you describe your design style?
My design style has changed or evolved many times over the past few years. In the past I focused on the aesthetic of speed or flow. While I still think that is important, I like to combine it with unexpected angular elements. I have always thought about proportion and obsess about well-balanced design. I am also really into craftsmanship and elements that really show it off, like a premium material or a handcrafted detail that people can connect with. I would really like to hear how other people would describe my “design style”.
What aspects of your own experiences are reflected in your design (if at all)?
I have worked a lot of details into shoes based on things I have seen on trips. When I am in a new place I tend to pay close attention to things like color and details on buildings. A few months ago, I visited Tokyo for the first time and was blown away by the attention to detail and amount of passion people had for the things they do. I watched a guy making fish cookies in a train station for about 10 minutes, the skill and precision he had was amazing. This job is probably equivalent to working at Cinnabon in the mall where employee turn around must be insane and there is no skill involved. Seeing a culture take it to the next level inspires me to do the same.
What is the difference between you and your designs during the beginning of your career as a designer and you as a designer now?
As a young designer coming out of college I was used to working as an individual in a competitive environment. It was really refreshing when I started a career and became part of a team. On every project, I work with a team of people who all have different strengths. It took a certain amount of time to understand this whole dynamic and to find my place. Throughout my time at New Balance I have learned a great deal from people that don’t work in design and I’d like to think this knowledge has affected the outcome of our projects. In the beginning of my career I was much more focused on the aesthetics of my projects whereas now I am most focused on the performance of my projects. I have learned that a performance focus drives the aesthetics and the product ends up being much stronger in the end.
How does your environment affect your design?
I like to have things and people around that inspire me. I am lucky to work with a very talented team of designers and engineers. We have a lot of collaboration going on every day, so that positive environment affects the work I do.
What has design taught you?
Design has taught me a lot more about people than I ever expected; what motivates them and how they make certain decisions. I have learned quite a bit from other designers too throughout the years and I really enjoy passing that knowledge on to younger designers. I have learned to be patient when my first instinct is not to be and to push for certain things when I feel very strong about them. Design has also taught me that as time goes by, more people are aware of design and how it impacts their lives.
Brett Golliff is a Designer 1 at New Balance
Check out previous “Design Insight With Brett Golliff” posts:
– Allow Me To Introduce Myself…
– Design Insight: Inspected (Inspired) by #23
– Design Insight: Art or Theft?
– Design Insight: Examining The Forces…
– Design Insight: The Sketchbook
– Design Insight: Forever Young
– Design Insight: Here Goes My List…
– Design Insight: mod·u·lar
– Design Insight: Why?
– Design Insight: The Second Season
– Design Insight: The Sketchbook (Inspiration)
– Design Insight: Creating Emotion With Motion
– Design Insight: Sketchbook Revisited
– Design Insight: Process
– Design Insight: Design School Confidential
– Design Insight: Step By Step
– Design Insight: Render
– Design Insight: The Warm Up
– Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 1 With Jason Mayden
– Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 2 With JF Fullum