2010 Future Sole Design Competition PRod 5 High School Grand Prize Winner.
I first heard about the Future Sole Competition two years ago. I was perusing a sneaker website when I came across an advertisement for a Nike sneaker designing contest: Future Sole. I have always loved sneakers, Nike and Jordan Brand, and the art of designing, so it almost seemed too good to be true. I spent a lot of time designing what I thought, at the time, to be an excellent shoe for both the Jordan and Nike categories. However, I was devastated when neither of my designs even made the semi-finals.
Though I didn’t make it through, I followed along with the outcome of the contest. I was enthralled when I saw Austin Jermacans’ design come to life, and I knew that I wanted the chance to do the same. When the time came for the 2010 Future Sole competition, I barely registered on time. I was swamped with end-of-the-year schoolwork, and I sent in the registration at the last minute. However, I worked hard on my designs and sent them in on time.
I was ecstatic to see that I made the semi-finals. In my mind, this was an enormous accomplishment in itself. However, my sights shifted towards finding a way to win the online voting, and just make it out to Oregon. Fortunately, I had an unbelievable amount of support from my friends and family who voted for me, and helped spread the word. When I found out that I won the Consumer’s Choice Award and would be moving on to the finals, I was overjoyed. It was like a dream come true. Not only would I have the chance to design a shoe for Nike, but also I was thrilled about heading to Nike World Headquarters to see where the magic happens. After reading about last year’s competition and the contestants’ experiences, I could hardly contain my excitement about the upcoming trip.
Shortly after hearing the good news, I heard from my mentor, Cheresse Thornhill. Cheresse is a designer at Nike basketball and I was astonished to see some of her work both on the internet and on the feet of people in my home city. She informed me about my new design brief, which was to design a skate shoe for Paul Rodriguez Jr. using the tooling from the Nike P-Rod 4. Cheresse was a huge help in guiding me in the right direction with my designs and concepts. I myself do not skate, so her insight was invaluable from both design and technical standpoints. Cheresse was great to work with. I play high school football and during the design period I was in the midst of two-a-day practices. Therefore, I had to use my time management skills to crank out sketches and designs whenever I had any free time. Cheresse was awesome with being flexible and working with me on a unique schedule. During the last couple of weeks, though, we kicked it into overdrive and finalized a stellar design.
The trip to Nike World Headquarters was the trip of a lifetime. Our first night in Portland, all the contestants, along with our parents, had dinner with the founder of Future Sole D’Wayne Edwards. He happened to sit next to me at dinner. He is as big as it gets in the footwear industry and I was almost starstruck. He was really great to talk to and I learned a lot from him about the industry. The next day, we took a tour of the Nike campus, which surpassed my preconceived expectations. Aesthetically, the landscaping and architecture of the place was beautiful. I had seen a few pictures of it on the internet but one can’t get an idea for how dynamic the atmosphere of the campus is except for in person. We got to see some amazing stuff, a lot of which I probably cannot divulge.
That night, I got to meet Cheresse in person for the first time at dinner. The next day, Cheresse was able to take me around the campus to see in-depth what it was like to work as a designer. She showed me her own sketches and models, which were amazing. I got to see pretty much every department of Nike design. While walking around, we happened to bump into the 3-D model of my shoe being delivered from the modeling department. It was such a proud moment to see my vision of the shoe turn out perfectly in three dimensions. My favorite part of the tour was getting to see the different production phases of the shoes and designs. Being a sneaker enthusiast, I have always been fascinated with seeing the behind-the-scenes workings of how sneaker designs come to life. I saw sketches, models, components, and samples of some INCREDIBLE shoes.
I also had the pleasure of meeting some incredible people at Nike. In addition to Cheresse, I got to meet some big-time designers like Jason Petrie, Leo Chang, Jonathon Johnson-Griffin and Wilson Smith III. In particular, Jason Petrie was awesome because he took a lot of time out of his schedule to talk to a few other contestants and me about everything from the LeBron James line to being a designer at Nike. I also enjoyed talking some football with Julian Duncan, who works in training. There was a really positive vibe about the campus and everyone that I met was extremely kind and generous.
The trip culminated with our design presentations. We were set up at the Tiger Woods Center on the stage of the Stanford Auditorium. I got to see my presentation board and there was some time to finalize my presentation with Cheresse. I ended up presenting second to last. It was interesting to see the other contestants present and to see their designs and inspirations. Before I knew it, it was time to present. I’m not a huge fan of talking in front of people, but amazingly I felt pretty comfortable talking about my design. It was a remarkable feeling to look into the audience and see familiar faces within the industry. After I presented, my competitor Nick Daiber went. He had a great presentation. It was interesting to see how he interpreted the design brief and also to see the similarities in our designs. Shortly after he presented, the results were in. When I heard my name I was overjoyed. I got the chance to thank everyone influential in me getting this far and it was a moment that I will never forget. Afterward I had the chance to get some pictures with the designers and thank them. Afterwards, there was a barbeque for everyone involved. Then Allen Largin (the Jordan division winner), Nick Daiber, and I asked Jason Petrie if we could go back to his office with him and talk to him some more about the LeBron line. He was extremely awesome about it and spent a lot of time talking to us. That kind of capped off the whole experience and I was able to learn a lot. From there we returned to the hotel. My dad and I hit the town to celebrate that night and we flew home the next morning.
All in all, this experience was everything that I thought it would be and more. After following the competition last year, it was an amazing feeling to actually be a part of it this year. I still get a kick out of seeing pictures of my designs on sneaker websites and hopefully there will be more to come. Before this experience, I never really even considered the position of a footwear designer. However, I have learned that it is actually possible to draw shoes for a living. Being able to walk around the Nike campus and talk to the designers has really motivated me to pursue my love for design, athletics and sneakers.
I’d like to thank everyone at home who supported me and helped me get this far as well as everyone else who voted for me. Also, thanks to Cheresse Thornhill for being a great mentor and Mr. D’Wayne Edwards for making his vision a reality and giving me this chance. The Future Sole experience was an opportunity of a lifetime and I will never forget it!
Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.