This week’s interview is with Dallas Stokes. A veteran in this game we call shoe design. Dallas has been all over the industry and back. He has managed to not only be successful within the walls of corporate design but also by owning and operating his design firm. Dallas offers some great insight in his answers, take time to read and learn from them like I did. Continue reading Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 4 With Dallas Stokes…
How many years have you been designing? What is your career history?
I have been designing for about nineteen years. I started with a company called Ball’n in high school and from there after graduation went to work for a company named Two Hype doing Reebok and 96 Olympic gear. After that I went to work for Puma for about a year before getting a call from adidas to do basketball when Kobe came on board. I spent about two years there and got a call from And1 and did that for another two years before going to Skechers to do the Skechers and Skechers Sport lines. I spent about four years with them before leaving and starting my own design firm with clients ranging from Pony, Dunk.net, And1, Converse, and Oakley. I did that for a few years before returning to Skechers to do Marc Ecko and 310 Motoring projects. From there I moved on to do work for Dada and P. Miller until starting my first company, Blacksheep. Two years past and the Protege project fell in my lap so I helped start that and presently have three lines in development.
What motivates you?
Family is my motivator. I am a father now and I work hard to make sure they don’t have to grow up like I did. It wasn’t the worst but it wasn’t the best so every design gives them a better chance than I had.
What inspires you?
It’s funny I am not really a conventional designer, I am more of an organic kinda guy. I never went to school to learn how to work my skills so my inspiration comes from many different things. I have been inspired by everything from flashes of light to tooth brushes. Music inspires me so much, just the beats and my mood. Where I am in life and everything around me also inspires me and the products I work on. I surf the web and watch a lot of T.V. and videos and read a lot of magazines because I realize that’s what the average consumer does. I will go to malls and talk to the guys who work in the stores because they see all the trends to get input. I will then create like five shoes in my head and do my “Beautiful Mind” thing for a day or two then hit the Illustrator and just spit it out. I really don’t sketch much anymore because the shoes are just in my head.
Where has design taken you?
Design has taken me to every place in the world but Alaska and Africa. I am on like my third passport and my eighth state. I love it!!!
What is “good design” in your opinion?
Anything I will pay my own money for. Anything that makes me think or leaves me in awe. Anything that makes me appreciate the process that it takes to create a product. Good design should inspire you to want to do better in order to get it. A lot of that has been lost in our industry to the numbers game. Companies would rather gamble on keeping costs low than creating good products. This is so sad, which is why you have to keep creativity and business in the proper perspective in order to survive.
What is your creative process?
My creative process is kind of different. I will get an idea in my head and work on it for a few days then just sit down and spit it out on the computer. I really don’t sketch or draw much anymore because I just sit down and bang shoes out for hours at a time. Being creative shouldn’t have limitations, it can come and go at anytime so when it’s there you should immerse yourself in it and enjoy it. What’s going on around you is so important to the creative process. I hear and have lived horror stories working in companies where the design area is like an accounting firm. In my opinion that’s just not good for a designer and the creative process. Get out and breathe and live it and feel it, or why do it!!!
How would you describe your design style?
My design style is all about function first then solving how to make it work and look good. I was once told that “Form Follows Function.” I always try to look at the Function then wrap the style around it. If it ain’t sexy it just don’t work for me. I try to make my style as sexy as possible without sacrificing the function. Sometimes I hit and sometimes I miss badly but I learn from each project. I also would say that my style is a direct interpretation of life and the things in and around it. If I buy a nice car or see things on a great trip it reflects in my work.
What aspects of your own experiences are reflected in your design (if at all)?
Every design is different. There are times when I can put my fingerprints all over a product and then there are times when I have to step back and let the powers that be run it. However for every product it’s just important to know how to pick your battles. What may not make it on one shoe may become the centerpiece of another.
What is the difference between you and your designs during the beginning of your career as a designer and you as a designer now?
In the beginning everything was so personal. I didn’t know how to choose my battles and I was kind of my worst enemy. With maturity comes the understanding that you can only take a product so far. When working on a shoe you have to realize its a company thing and its like being a parent because you take your kids so far then they have to go off to school and let others help you. When I was young I didn’t understand that you couldn’t get so emotionally attached to your work once it gets to a certain point. Also you have to know when to understand it’s about the customer and the brand, and not your ego.
How does your environment affect your design?
I have to be in an environment that breeds creativity. As I said before I have worked in places like Skechers, adidas, And1 and Oakley to name a few that make the creative process amazing!!! Then there have been some that don’t understand and appreciate the creative mind and process. As a designer if you feel like you work at an accounting firm your creativity becomes a job and not a dream. That is the worst!!! I keep music, magazines, Internet and television around me at all times so I can be an emotional sponge. It keeps the creative mind at ease and makes the process flow and constantly going. There are times when you just don’t have a clue what to do next and you have to get outside of your four walls and just breathe a bit. Get out and see the world and get a different perspective. As a designer it should not be a job, it should be what you love to do with a paycheck as a bonus. Have fun, man.
What has design taught you?
Design has taught me patience, respect, self-awareness and responsibility. More importantly it’s made me understand the importance of staying competitive and hungry. I always tell people that you’re only as good as your last shoe. You have to understand that first comes the consumer and the direction of the brand. Over time you will get a chance to leave your D.N.A. or mark on the business. However you have to get the job done first so pick your battles and more importantly have fun. You can sell a million shoes one year and thirty-thousand the next so stay hungry because you are truly only as good as your last shoe.
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
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 3 With Kyle Strek