Brett Golliff completes his Air Jordan 2012 design concept. Take a look.
So it took me long enough but I am finally here with the conclusion to my Air Jordan 2012 design. The main reason why the post was delayed was because I couldn’t find a sole unit I was happy with. I seriously drew 40 sketches for that thing and I finally ended up on one that captured the emotion and essence of the upper of the shoe. I think this was a classic case of overthinking a design, I wanted it to do too much; I am just grateful I realized it, instead of putting out a design that didn’t feel right.
I am looking forward to seeing every designer’s entry in the Lightweight Running 10 OZ.’s of Freedom shoe and running apparel contests that ends this weekend. And coming next week I will be unveiling another project: my interview with Tinker Hatfield. Designer-to-Designer, it will be a three part series so check back for that!
Structural integrity while manipulating mass and form is the overlying theme for this project. I wanted to remove structure where it wasn’t necessary and allow form to be created naturally by the volume of the athlete’s foot. When you first view the shoe you may think proportionally it is wrong, but I would argue against that. The technologies I am using to create this product allows to really control and push the boundaries of what is necessary and what is not necessary in a shoe.
As I mentioned in my first post this shoe is meant to come in above the entire Jordan Brand line of product. It is the flagship shoe and thus will be receiving a higher price-point. The main driver behind the cost of any product is its production. The simplest way to look at it is the more hands that touch the product and the longer the product takes to be made, the higher the cost. Material does play a large factor in the cost but the reality is that just because you have expensive leather or composite material doesn’t mean that you have to use it in an expensive manufacturing process.
Footwear production is very similar to automotive production. It starts as pieces that are cut out, generally with dyes and sometimes laser cut; and then works its way down a line of manufacturers that assemble the shoe piece by piece. Depending on the complexity of the shoe it determines the amount of shoes that will be processed in a day. The shoe that I have created is a blend of hands-on manufacturing and in-line manufacturing. Which basically means it combines the best of both worlds by allowing machines to create the work that humans can’t but provides a touch of soul when the craftsman finishes off the product.
I believe that the process I have created for the shoe would best be compared to Porsche. I chose Porsche because it is not all handcrafted like a Bentley, it still features elements that are not man made but yet are very precise. This sounds terrible to say but I have had no luck in finding images of a recent Porsche production line. I have found plenty of vintage images but they don’t sell my story, so what I have provided are some beautiful high-resolution images of the new Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 being created. You can find the full set of images at Wired.com as they did a great article on the process.
I feel these images sum up exactly how the Air Jordan should be made. It should not be in the same factory as every other shoe. It should be taken to an area where time is not an issue; the issue should be making sure the best product on the planet is made and if it is not, start over. Outside of the luxury shoe market, like say a Christian Louboutin; the only athletic shoe I can think of that does this is the Nike Mercurial series and in particular the Nike Mercurial SL from a few years ago.
The greatest challenge I faced with this design was not creating it but figuring out how to actually make it. Once I knew the production path for the product I had to actually show how it could be made. I have created two illustrations of the step-by-step process of the shoe.
The shoe starts with an in-line production piece: the sock. The sock is spun with a weave of Spandex that has great elasticity to it but is grouped together in strands to create an arraying element of support. In the meantime while the sock is being made, a block of EVA is being crafted into a high-performance midsole.
The midsole is being created on a 5-Axis mill. A mill is used to create precise cuts that can’t normally and consistently be achieved by hand. The average mill features a table that moves horizontally and vertically allowing you to cut geometric shapes but a 5-Axis mill is controlled by a robotic arm that reads computer generated math data (an Alias, Rhino or Solid Works file) that tells the arm where to remove material from. To my knowledge this has not been used before in footwear. I believe it could truly change how high end product is created. The only downfall is the time that would be spent on milling out each individual midsole. I see this tool the same way I saw Laser Etching, what was once considered an expensive option and a timely option on a product can now be found nearly at all price-points.
Milling out a midsole would also provide designers an opportunity to create complex designs that cannot be achieved with molds. I am not going to get into a full breakdown of molds but understand they can be very limiting. Anything with an undercut cannot be pulled out of a mold because it will get stuck. Another limitation is generating a design with voids in it. If I were to take the design I have created for this Air Jordan and have it made in a mold it would have to use a system of sliders that wrap around the heel; which is basically pins that move in and out to keep a material from filling in a void. Which is an option but it would be an expensive option across a whole size run. The real benefit I see of using a mill is that you can remove foam down to the smallest fraction of size and if designed properly you will not lose structural integrity.
Once the mill has completed the midsole, two Zoom Air units are placed in the cavities that were created. There is a cavity in the forefoot and in the heel. The Zoom Air is bottom loaded thus being closer to the impact of the court. A full-length Carbon Fiber Shank Plate is placed on top of the Zoom Air in the footbed of the shoe. I chose to add an anodized copper finish to the plate to give the Carbon Fiber a new aesthetic. The final pieces of the sole are the rubber pieces in the forefoot and heel. There are a total of four rubber pieces and they are pre-molded.
The sole unit tooling is then attached to the upper of the shoe. To provide the shoe with the necessary stability it needs, it has EVA fragments that are glued to the sock. The fragments are milled out of a block of EVA. The unique part about this application of the fragments is that because they are hand-applied they can virtually be placed anywhere. I think you can provide an excellent opportunity for an athlete to individually design their upper around where they need more support. Maybe their midfoot does not need as much support as I have shown? They can remove a piece or even space the pieces out more. What if they have severe ankle injuries? Cut the pieces larger to fully surround the shape of their malleolus, using a mill truly allows for limitless options.
This three part series (see: Part 1 & Part 2) started out with a severe critique of the current Jordan Brand product line. I want to reiterate that I fully understand why the line is positioned the way it is currently, my idea was solely based around my constant day dreaming of a brand that is special to me. I said in I Have An Idea… “In my opinion what is hurting the current game shoe is that its price-point keeps its construction methods too similar to the rest of the brand’s shoes. The Air Jordan 2011 is $175, the Jordan Fly Wade is $140, the Jordan Melo M7 Advance is $130 and the Jordan Q Flight is $120 and all of them virtually feature the same construction methods, sole unit features (two of them are actually the exact same sole unit, therefore cutting more cost) and materials; then what product is the flagship?” Well I think I have done my best to answer this question with my design.
If I have to pick my number one flaw is that the shoe I have created may be very expensive. I didn’t go to finance school and therefore I feel it would be ignorant of me to predict the actual price. But I can tell you that the consumer exists, it will be purchased; just challenge them to do it. I mean Reebok already tried to sell a $65,000 version of the Question. I can promise you my concept won’t be that much.
Brett Golliff is a Lead Designer at General Motors and former Designer at New Balance.