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What They Do

Fashion Designers Career Video

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Just when you think you've seen it all, athletic shoe designers come up with a new look for running shoes.

"We're very busy -- like many others -- every day trying to come up with the perfect sports shoe," says Chris Brown, an athletic shoe and product designer in Nashville, Tennessee. "We push the limits to do better. Look at how far running shoes have come in the past 20 years!"

Early in the 20th century, athletic shoes were called pumps, and they consisted of canvas uppers with gum rubber coatings. In those days, one pair of "tennis shoes" was worn for all sporting activities. Then the running boom of the 1970s caused the sale of athletic shoes to rise tremendously. New companies like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Tiger, Brooks and Pony brought new ideas and specialized sports shoes to the market.

Even with computers on the scene, there are some basic talents shoe designers should have. They mix artistic skills with marketing and engineering research to come up with the best design in a very competitive business. "Hone your drawing skills," says Brown. "Drawing is very important. You can always work on the peripheral and technical skills like computers. Those will take care of themselves. But being able to draw well makes this so much easier."

Don't overlook the basics, says Maria Kozo, a footwear designer. "Legible handwriting is very important. I suggest as many industrial arts, arts and architectural drawing classes as you can get. And designers are a different breed -- you have to have confidence in your ideas and your concepts. It's important that you be able to go against the grain."

Creativity is important in all design fields. You must also have a strong sense of detail, color, balance and proportion. "Use your creative thinking, work hard, have a goal and most of all, be honest," says John Fluevog, owner of a shoe company.

At a Glance

Help people put their best foot forward

  • Changing consumer tastes mean designers must adapt
  • Creativity is important
  • A degree in industrial design is your best bet


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