Prototyping is such a discipline. I was so tempted to use leather to try this out. Paper has similar stiffness so it did the trick. When in doubt, don’t buy/make anything.

There might be something here, but since I’m not that steeped in the fashion world, I’m sure this could have been done before. If anyone knows of something similar, please let me know. The idea is that the initial strap holds the foot and the rest are there as decoration. I’m pleased with the architectural aspects of it and I think there could be some interesting things that happen with the light on the different layers. The underside of the leather also has tons of possibility. I’m also curious how it will interact with the shape of the foot. This is going to yield some unusual lines.

Questions:
How comfortable will it be? How will it perform in action? Will it be playful? Annoying?

Learnings:
The paper was great. Just pinned it to the EVA blank. No glue, no waiting, infinitely modifiable. I need that.

Other thoughts:
I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. Just playing around trying to find something that is worth pursuing in more detail. Trying to come up up with something new is hard.

I overslept this morning. Woke up at 7:50am but I think I needed it. One of the benefits of working at home is that I was still able to get an hour of shoe making in before I had to start working at 9am.

Another benefit of working at home is that you can wear your prototypes around the house. For the past few days I’ve been wearing the “strut” boot around. And honestly, I think I might be tired of it. Just to see how it felt, I covered it with linen this morning and although there’s some interesting things happening with the ribbing, it just doesn’t have enough visual interest yet.

So I put it aside and started working on anohter concept inspired by the work of Marloes ten Bhömer that I posted yesterday. Seeing your ideas for what they are can often be frustrating. I find that I’m often in a worse mood when my shoe making isn’t going well. But that’s all the more reason that I find the building necessary. I’ve been thinking about a “loose boot” concept for a while now. Maybe almost a year. But it’s just been thinking and drawing. It’s counter intuitive, but getting the thing out in the real world makes it so much easier to let go. So I have. For now.

I’m always thrilled to see folks pushing the boundaries for footwear. Marloes ten Bhömer is doing just that. The shoes are beautiful. I’m such a sucker for simple lines in footwear. I also love the rebelliousness of using vegetable tanned soling leather as the upper as well. The carbon fiber seems a bit of stretch, but I’m grateful for the attempt.

I haven’t been building as much as I’d like to lately so I’m trying a new schedule. Up at 6 (or 6:30) and I’m going to give myself 2 hours to work on shoes. This morning I started by playing around with material. Just cutting grooves into EVA foam to see how it responds. Eventually I ended up here.

The idea is to create a structure (with the stays) that would support a very lightweight and loose fitting boot. The sandal type strap across the forefoot would provide a snug fit.

I’m not sure if this will go anywhere, but I could see it having the potential to play around with some very unusual profiles without sacrificing the fit of the shoe.

I ran a half-marathon with my partner on Sunday. It was in San Antonio, TX.

When you are in a race with 30, 000 people, and you are interested in shoes, you notice a lot of footwear. Much of the sneakers were what you’d expect. Running shoes. I did see one guy in Vibram 5-fingers and another guy in what appeared to be a roman style slipper. Both were running the half marathon.

I didn’t see the 5-fingers guy at the end, but I did see the other guy. He probably weighed 200lbs and yet, there he was jogging along at the end looking no worse for wear.

The phenonmenon of the minimalist running shoe is really interesting. On the one hand, I really hope they succeed. I think we could learn a lot as a culture by weening ourselves from stuff and protection. It actually feels very Buddhist to me… everything you need is already within yourself. But it’s a big leap. I love being active and wouldn’t want to risk that by injuring myself.

I do think that Vibram’s missing something though. While the 5-fingers concept may work physiologically (and I’m not sure that it does) they are really missing the design. Like z-coils, few people are going to want to wear the functionality on their sleeves, or soles as the case may be. You’d think that Vibram, a company that established a brand in the least visible part of the shoe would have extended that subtlety to their shoes. Not so. Oh well.

I’m going to try a few experiments with minimalist running shoes that will take advantage of the “foot freedom” without forsaking the style elements. I’d love to see the footwear industry turned on it’s head. And I’d love to be one of the people to do it.

I made this paddle blade cover this past week. As a product it’s incredibly simple, but I thought it might serve as a useful springboard for the end to end experience of launching a product. Below is my first pass at the elements I’d need to take into consideration if I were going to try to sell this simple product.  What would you add? What’s missing?

User Considerations – Does the idea have a chance?

Feasibility – Why wouldn’t someone buy this? It’s weird. It doesn’t protect the whole paddle. It’s not from a trusted brand. They wouldn’t know how it works.
Value – What is the value you are offering? Just enough protection for 90% of your needs. Simplicity = a cheaper price, and a recycle-able solution. The benefits of singular material. Is that enough?

Design Considerations – How can we make it better?

Transitions – Right now it works from a functional standpoint, but it’s not the easiest thing to get on. I see so many products that fail to take the process of transitions into consideration. So how could we make that process better? My friends Hetal and Eva have done a great job of this with their bag, Flip And Tumble. Their bag is defined by the playful transition. It’s wonderful.

Polish – How would I go from a 5 minute prototype to something that is worth $5? If you want someone to buy a product, it’s got to feel like something magical happened somewhere. It’s easy enough with a cell phone, but much more of a challenge with something as simple as this.

Business Considerations – How do we make it profitable?

Competition – Who is it? This cover from Dakine. It costs $15. We can either go upmarket or down market. My gut says to charge $30 or $5. I don’t to find some clear space to play. We may come back to this if we can’t own either of those price points.

Brand Space – What kind of product are we going for? Who’s going to buy it? What’s going to resonate with them? Is there even anything here? Any need?

Value Proposition –  Where are we in the scale from hi- to low -end. As a designer, my skill is often in finding ways to get people to desire a product. This gives me the ability to squeeze profit from design. But that’s just one way to make a profit. We can also channel the creativity into the ways we manufacture it in order to maximize the efficiency of production. That’s what Wal-Mart does.

Manufacturing – How and Where are we going to get it made?

Local? – How local? In my home? Would that be a good way to prototype this? All I’d need to do is find a supplier for the tubes and develop a way to cut them that yeilds a cleaner slit than the one I did with an X-acto knife.

Sustainability – How critical is that to this process? How can we use it to create something with a triple bottom line? How it what we’re doing more sustainable than the competition? If we don’t use mixed materials, it’s much easier to recycle at the end of it’s life. And because we’re using less mass, my hunch is we’ll have a much smaller carbon footprint. But that’s a dull story. It’s got to be pepped up and simplified.

Marketing – How do we get people to care about this little strip?

Advertising – The answer would depend on where we’re going to sell it. If we go for that $30 price point, our advertising is going to have to sell that promise. Every touchpoint will need to reflect the richness of the experience. If we go for $5 dollars, however, a slick design might send the wrong message. 

Blogs – Are we going for Core77, a Kayak/Stand Up Paddle Magazine, or REI? Who do we want to target

Word of Mouth – Who are our friends and will the care enough to help spread the word. If they don’t love it, time to move on to a new idea.

Distribution – Where do we sell them?

On-line – Great margins. Poor visibility.

Paddle/Surf shops – Good visibility, poor margins. But we’ll also get better feedback. They are the people who will know if it sells or not. Go to them early.

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