Designer Interview // Robbie Fuller & Gabe Heller Talk adidas adiPower Howard 2
words & interview // Zac Dubasik
As Dwight Howard’s game has developed and matured, his adidas signature line has as well. It only seems right that the most dynamic big-man in the League would have a decidedly un-big-man signature shoe. Creating a shoe that can protect one of the league’s biggest and most popular players, as well as giving him the mobility that makes him such a special talent, is a balancing act.
We caught up with Category Designer Robbie Fuller and Global Senior Product Manager Gabe Heller to get the inside story on Dwight’s latest signature adidas basketball shoes.
Zac Dubask: The shift to the adiPower Howard from the Super Beast was pretty minimal. But we see something completely different with the adiPower Howard 2. What was your starting point for the 2?
Robbie Fuller: Just like you said, we had a good platform, and a lot of things that were working, like the Alive cushioning system. We knew we wanted to stay consistent with that. And from there, I think this is a premium version and continuation of some of the things we’ve had, like on the Super Beast with the really massive Stripes. How do we take that from being synthetic stitched, to being this 3D-molded cage in the midfoot. That’s where a lot of this came from. And then, through talking to Dwight, he has a huge personality. I think we’ve done a good job of working in the details we can, but until this point, we had never fully committed the actual texture and design and everything to really showcasing this one little tidbit of his game. I was working with another designer that was helping out with this, and we were just challenging each other back and forth.
I can remember the comment. We had herringbone all over the outsole, and it was like, “That’s not a story. That’s not an explanation.” It’s going to work, and it’s super functional, but, is there a way to just get at explaining a better example of what signature can mean? And that’s where we started going back and forth with “shatter.” AdiPower is always about energy, and Dwight is probably the only guy in the league right now who doesn’t even have to touch the goal; he just looks at the goal, and it’ll fall down or the backboard will shatter. [laughs] We started there, and had that theme and idea take over the whole shoe. You see it from the bottom. It starts in the forefoot and just echoes all the way out. It’s kind of similar to what’s going on with the miCoach. The micoach is starting small. We are integrating it into the shoes. But over the years, it’s going to really grow and become a critical part of why you are going to buy these shoes in the future.
ZD: In the past, with a typical big man shoe, you could have raised the collar, added as much padding to the upper as possible, given it as much cushioning as possible, and called it a day. But Dwight’s line hasn’t been like that. What’s that balance like, with Dwight being such a big guy, but such a mobile guy at the same time?
Robbie: You look at Dwight, and he is not like the guys that I remember from the mid and late-‘80s playing ball. If you saw standing next to a Bill Laimbeer, or a Jack Sikma, it’s just night and day. [laughs] He’s such an amazing athlete. He probably has 4% body fat. And we take that same look and bring it into the shoe. He doesn’t need a massive boot, up to his knee. He can probably beat any of us in a race to the corner, and he’s super agile. It just happens to be that he’s almost seven feet tall while he’s doing it. In the shoes, we look at all those features. What is the torsionability of the shoe? It doesn’t need just to be for putting your back to the basket. It’s the sprint down the court so that he get’s the lob before the point guard can even get back on defense.
Gabe: A big thing for us, moving into spring, with Dwight not being your prototypical big man, was really looking at a brief for how we make a shoe that’s not looked at as a big man’s shoe. How do we capture Dwight’s personality in it, and it just happens to be a hot shoe that’s worn by a big guy. And I think we’ve really captured that with the personality, which Robbie talked about, with the shattered backboard.
Robbie: I wouldn’t say specifically, but every time we start a product, we don’t start from scratch. We have such a history and herratige, and a DNA of adidas design. Anything that’s going on now, we already did it. Whether it’s Select System, or anything, we’ve been there. We have such a treasure trove of functional concepts to go back to, and the three Stripes just seem like a place that we can work in one of those cues from an old EQT shoe.
ZD: This shoe uses the Alive cushioning system again. Could you explain how that works?
Robbie: The way that works is basically like a piston. We’ve cored out the EVA that’s behind the rubber so it can kind of go up in that void area. Imagine a trampoline that’s only two inches off the ground. It’s going to suck. But one that’s three feet off the ground, you can go down and back up. That’s what is so cool about this. It’s these separate pistons that basically engage depending on how you run. If you are on the outside, you are going to engage the outside. If you are running straight, you are going to engage pretty much all of them.
ZD: Could you talk about the shank, and how it maybe has influence from SPRINTFRAME?
Robbie: When we know we are going to built an adiZero [shoe], we set the weight target, and we know exactly what we want to try and achieve. That’s why you see SPRINTFRAME, and see it stitched. For this shoe, it’s always a trade off. The shoe can’t have everything. You don’t see a hummer doing 0-60 in three seconds. [laughs] You have to make concessions. We felt that instead of having the SPRINTFRAME execution on this particular shoe, we thought really locking down the midfoot was the right way to go, and the right recipe for Dwight and his game.
ZD: Was any particular feedback from Dwight incorporated into the design?
Robbie: “Don’t make it heavy!” This is the lightest Dwight. He’s been echoing that same thing in the last couple of meetings. He’s super open to continuing to push function, continuing to push the storytelling, and he’s challenging us not to make a boot. [laughs] He’s seen some of the things going on with adiZero, with how light and how reactive those shoes can be to your movements, and he wants to make sure he’s got something that’s just as strong.
Gabe: Couple that with when you meet with him, he has a size 18 foot, so he’s very conscious about how the shoe looks on his foot. It’s really taking those cues, and giving him that stylish component where when he does put on a size 18, it’s not drawing attention to how big his feet are. And I think this shoe does a great job, and just fits together real well.
ZD: Were there any personal details that he asked to be incorporated?
Robbie: We’ve been working closely with him and Rose, and starting to build up a tool kit of graphics and sign offs. We really respect the level of a logo, because it means a lot. We met him him three separate times, and had 10-feet tall, by five-feet wide logos printed out, and he got to go through them. But besides that, we made sure we have a sign-off of his name on there, and the “one, two” for his number. The shape of the tongue top is reminiscent of stories we’ve highlighted in the past. [laughs]
Gabe: And he’s big on luxury materials, so the vamp now is microfiber synthetic to really give you that nicer feel, but it’s microfiber for lighter weight and better breathability.
Robbie: Even the webbing comes from the trim of their uniforms.
Available: adidas adiPower Howard 2