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Experience the Future!

This article is quite lightweight, but gives a nice shiny overview of Experience Design (As opposed to UX which at the moment seems to have been completely co-opted by IT):

http://www.fastcodesign.com/3025274/move-over-product-design-ux-is-the-future

I thought it was interesting how Delta airlines in the US has completely revamped it’s gate lounges from instead of being just rows of seats to actually being more like a lounge.  Now it just needs some trees for carbon offset and it will be slightly more ‘Design Anthropology’ and slightly less ‘User Experience’.

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This is probably the quotable section from the article, supporting John Wood’s article “Why User-Centered Design is Not Enough” via Core77 last year:

 

Experience innovators recognize that consumers can’t tell you about the things they need or want but haven’t yet imagined. Nor can consumers articulate how they will do things differently in the future. For instance, customers will tell an airline they really want quick boarding and on-time departures.

 

That’s fairly obvious. But Delta came up with an approach they call “delocation” as a way of taking services out of their typical location and improving the travel experience in unexpected ways. Delta brought the lounge directly to the gate, creating an enhanced experience among travelers who had never thought of the gate past its function as a waiting area and were often too rushed to visit the airline lounge. The Delta concourses at LaGuardia and Minneapolis have banquette seating, embedded iPads, gate side ordering, and specially curated shops and restaurants to create new levels of service and ambiance. The space takes advantage of Delta’s ability to partner and deliver on its essence of “making flying better” in a way consumers might never have articulated in a focus group.

Seeya later, 2013!

Okay I noticed that it’s been about 6 weeks since I posted so I probably should do a end-of-year wrap-up while it still is 2013.

On the University front, things went well. Of the 7 subjects, I got x1 Credit, x3 Distinctions and x3 High Distinctions.  Acceptable for an old dog learning new tricks, I feel. Not that it’s about marks, because I’m sure nobody cares and really for me it was about learning for it’s own sake and stepping outside your comfort zone, which are actually the hard parts.  My brainpower wasn’t really as stretched as I thought it would be (although at times it did take me a while to get my head around things), it was more a case of both my ability to accept learning about things that don’t have any immediate relevance to my life or career, dealing with academia and all it’s weird disconnects from reality, and having to read and write more in 12 months than I have in my entire adult life. It was a challenge, but I coped pretty well, so kudos to myself for that, I guess.

There were three real joys from the whole experience that I’d like to talk about.  The first is definitely the people.  Because it’s a real ‘catalyst’ course, you get people from many walks of life that have all come to this one point from different directions. That diversity but also empathy is very enriching and rewarding.  I realised that I don’t get to talk about design as much as I would like to.  Sometimes having a ‘job’ in a particular field makes you somewhat institutionalised or reluctant to discuss broader contexts, or to examine aspects not directly related to (or funded by) said job.  The University environment and especially the fantastic people that I met this year has just been awesome in that respect.  It’s a strange mix of introspection and self-referential institutionalism, but also a great environment to let your mind wander.

The second areas that I really enjoyed this year, was to investigate, research, and justify some of the ideas I’ve had ratting around for many years.  I always maintain that there is no shortage of ideas, just them means to implement them, and being able to attach ideas to research or projects for my course has allowed me a depth of investigation I wouldn’t normally be able to apply to them.  Which is great for dinner-table arguments because I can now back up my opinions with the opinions of others!

The final aspect about University life that I enjoyed was the way in which peripheral/co-curricular learning was just as or if not more beneficial than the course itself.

Designers know that they spend about 10% of their time designing and the rest of the time doing the boring stuff, so the question for me now is how to make that fun 10% better, or even better again, turn that 10% into as close to 100% as possible.  Learning about design research (or perhaps more accurately ‘research for design’) and lean entrepreneurship – as well as the positive principles of design anthropology – have had a dramatic effect on how I view design, and how I’m now enacting design.

As a pleasure seeking human (aren’t we all) I’ve pretty much spent my design career on the 10% and doing everything to avoid the other 90%.  This has both been an active and a passive mechanism though, as probably from 1995 to 2005 I was actively employed as an ‘ideas guy’ where I could indulge my love of ideas and creativity (‘concepting’) and leave the annoying stuff like bringing ideas to market or designing a roadmap of how those ideas could turn into a product range up to someone else.

The problem with that is, of course, is that management may not know what to do with these ideas.  They might not even understand them.  Marketing people can be reactionary – they can be reactive: ‘we need to do something like that too, fast’ – and if your concept or idea doesn’t fit into an existing framework it could be overlooked. Perhaps no one person or department can recognise an opportunity when it’s presented to them, or perhaps the fear of picking the wrong idea leads to a sort of ‘analysis paralysis’.  What I’m trying to illustrate is that ideas don’t have an easy road to fruition, and these days it’s not so much the idea as the ‘road to fruition’ that’s interesting me, whereas in the past I was of the attitude that if I was having fun to dream up stuff and getting paid for it, then if the ‘powers that be’ didn’t ‘get it’ then that was their problem.

Unfortunately however I’ve got the ‘double whammy’ to contend with (designer AND entrepreneur) where that kind of thinking just doesn’t apply any more, and to be frank I wish I had recognised that back in 2002-4 when my bike project Thylacine Cycles got off to a less than ideal start.  As with most things I guess, with the tools that I have now, I probably would’ve stopped doing Thylacine by 2005 or so, even though the best years were still to come.  The issue is, is that there is a real balancing act between having the drive and the passion to make an idea happen, and being over-invested in that idea to the point where you can’t be objective regarding it’s viability.  Even by 2007, Thylacine wasn’t even really close to being a full-time business, yet it was taking up the vast majority of my time and resources. Problems with freight and unruly suppliers were making life very difficult, and local support aside from about 5 people was virtually non-existent.  Attempts to fix issues weren’t working, but I was too vested in the project to pull the plug and concentrate on other things and things didn’t improve despite my best efforts.  By 2012 I had landed myself a very reliable and professional builder but it was too little, too late.

So what are the lessons learned of the past 10 years or so, culminating in my return to Uni this year and me sitting here writing this?

Well, the big one is attempting now to shift my thinking away from ‘the idea’ towards the ‘validation of the idea’ itself.  It’s just not enough to think that as a designer your idea is ‘cool’ and that’s enough evidence you need to pursue an idea either commercially or mentally for that matter.  Remember….there’s no shortage of good ideas – right?  But what there is a shortage of, is knowing the difference between a cool idea, and a cool idea that’s something more.

Of course, you can only do that for so long before you start getting annoyed.  As a designer, if you’re interested in making something for production, you want others to enjoy it as much as you do.  Otherwise it’s called ‘a hobby’.  (However, you shouldn’t discount the hobby, because often it’s the commercialisation of hobbies that leads to great businesses and products, and hobbies that involve actually making stuff is good for your design soul.)

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Okay, so then, what’s the plan for this year?

Well, I wish I knew!  I’m still interested in pursuing employment possibilities, and still interested in taking White Label Badminton somewhere, and using it as a driver to test lean entrepreneurship (god I hate that word) ideas. This is going to be a bit of a battle because the market is super conservative and collectivist, which I find in equal measures both fascinating and annoying.

By the end of the year I’d like to say I can make a pair of traditional brogue shoes from scratch, by hand (even though it’s not really a style I’m interested in.  But it’s nice sometimes to do something just so that you can say you can). I want to explore my idea of ‘post-industrial’ minimalist shoemaking by making a few of the designs I have kicking around, as well as make some Summer orientated sandal type things before it gets too cold to wear them.

I’d really like to get more interested in photography.  I’d like to get a camera solely dedicated to sports shooting so I can take some shots of badminton and cycling, and whatever else tickles my fancy.

My friend Brett and I have convinced eachother we’re going to make a lugged road frame or two, so we’ll see how that goes.  His wife is due in 6 months or so so we’re under a bit of a time crunch there!

In September we’re planning on going to the US for a month or so, and after that we’re going to start planning the extension to our house. I’ve been sketching ideas and collecting information for about 5 years now, but this year I’ll step that up. I did a project at University about modular architecture and the Australian vernacular and some of that will inform what we do with the house.  I’m interested specifically in what I like to call ‘raw architecture’ – architecture that is raw and unfinished, with an honesty in materials and processes and a real sense of story-telling and of placemaking. I think the future of architecture is not one of either living in some sort of machine or something resembling a hospital, but something that reconnects us with nature and our social needs.  Architecture has been fetishised to the point where we’re being lead to believe we need to live an ordered life in a white box full of shiny things, which is something I wholesalely don’t subscribe to.

As with all plans of course I expect all of this t come completely haywire, but regardless, it’s good to have something to look forward to!

 

I wish all my family, friends, and colleagues –  both past, present and future – all the best and a prosperous 2014!

 

Cheers,

Warwick

 

 

The Culture of Winning

One of the things that fascinates me about culture is the way that apparent subtle differences in theory play out to be rather larger in practice, and also how ones reaction to those differences changes with attitude.

 

My current example is quite petty in a way, but goes on to illustrate the challenges of working in a cross-cultural sphere.

 

Last night at my weekly badminton competition, the team we were playing against had a fill-in who, like the fill-in before him in a previous week, is clearly a higher grade player than B grade. I was lucky to get 10 points off him, and to be fair, I think if he was fired up I’d be lucky to get half that.  My team mate got more, but by this stage they had won every game and he was clearly ‘being kind’. It should probably be noted at this stage that the team we played against is second on the ladder and gunning for the top position.

Now, in the Western tradition, despite the fact that no rules have technically been broken, bringing in a fill in that you know is better than the person replacing them is something you just don’t do. It’s rude, unsportsman-like, and a whole heap of other negative adjectives. However in a more Eastern context, because you’re not breaking the rules, what you’re doing is being clever, and levering an advantage. The rules aren’t there to tell you what you can’t do, but in a way, hint at what you can.

So whilst in the Western tradition you are breaking ‘unwritten rules’, if as a Westerner you enter into a sphere where Eastern cultural mores are the norm, what do you do?

Clearly you can’t fight against it, because the reason you’re upset or disappointed by the lack of adherence to what appears to be common sense to allow everyone to be happy and feel as though they’re playing on a level playing field just doesn’t even register with the people you’re showing your displeasure towards. I’d even hazard a guess and say that it may even register as a weakness – you don’t accept an advantage as such, therefore you’re not ‘up with it’ and not a contender.

 

That of course is the great paradox of competition sport – there is only one winner, so those that aren’t contenders better have something to look forward to every night, or else what’s the point? Most weeks I want to play the best I can and have a fair shot at playing against people on my level. If I wanted to get smashed every week, I’d just go play A-Grade. There’s a sense that because we’re not in the top 3 teams, that somehow there is the assumption that we’re happy to assist the second team get to the top by being okay with the bringing in of a substitute of a higher level for us to lose against. That we’re happy to sacrifice our enjoyment to help them, because winning is everything, and rules are only there to be worked around.

 

In the Western context, these and other notions are very confusing, culturally. We generally come to sport as ‘recreation’, as something to do for fun. Even club level competition is not really that serious. If you don’t train specifically for your sport, then in essence what you’re doing is recreation, not competition.

Historically, the badminton of 80 years ago was firmly planted in British notions of recreation, of physical activity for fun, fitness, and leisure – but also British notions of behaviour, ‘manners’ and sportsmanship.  Up until about 30 years ago, that was still the case, but with it’s prominence in Asia it is now in a way very much an Asian sport, and as a result, the culture has shifted in subtle but impactful ways. In entering that sphere – and designing in that sphere – it’s definitely a real-world challenge to behave and design cross-culturally, and accept attitudes and behaviours that might be completely foreign to your own.

Brand Ethics

This week in Global Brand Strategy, we looked at brand ethics – what they are, what they mean, are they just a load of crap, etc..

 

It caused a bit of consternation amongst my fellow students, and why not? It’s not exactly been a great time for ethical brand behaviour, what with the GFC and all.  Greed is good, unless it’s not part of your brand strategy, in which case it’s bad. Yep, we weren’t expecting a deregulated banking industry whose sole purpose is collecting money to go so horribly haywire.  What were we thinking?

 

Anyway, back to brand ethics. I think the reason people get their knickers in a knot about brand ethics is a combination of ‘when it goes wrong it goes horribly and publicly wrong’, and that when it does, it reminds us that by definition, a non-living entity can’t really have ethics, and we feel somewhat ‘deceived’. It’s as if we want our brands to be impervious, solid, and dependable.

Well, they only have themselves to blame, really. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘Stay on-message’ in the past year or two? Brands spend a lot of time simplifying and condensing who they are, what they are, and what they stand for, for the very reason as to communicate succinctly exactly those premises. Brands are a simplified versions of ourselves – almost caricatures in the way they’re designed, structured, and the way they communicate. They allow us to live out parts of our personality in a glossy, techicolour ‘dog-and-pony show’ style.

 

So when brands screw up, many of us feel personally affronted. We’ve ‘believed the hype’, we’re in many cases emotionally and socially invested in the brand – and because of their glossy, condensed hyper-selves – we feel especially let down.  I suspect that many people hold grudges against brands for longer than they do people, as I know myself I didn’t buy Nike until last year after the child labour scandal of the early 2000’s, and I still have in the forefront of my mind when I’m in the supermarket the Nestlé infant formula scandal of the 1980’s. It’s all a bit silly really, because at the root of every human endeavour – including organising ‘work’ under a ‘brand’ – is those pesky, fallible, and often ridiculous, humans.  Everything we do is a reflection of us, of who we are, and brands are no different.

 

Where the problem lies for many, is the notion that human ethics are ‘real’, and brand ethics are only a ‘construct’, an illusion created to sell more stuff. However, any group of people working together whether structured or organically come together under a framework of behaviour, of what’s expected, what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. Any group of people inherently has a code of conduct, a set of rules, a set of ethics. The only place where a brand differs, is that it’s ethics are quite implicit, and may only be applicable within their given sphere of influence, or even ‘selective’.  For example, if you’re Bushmaster Firearms, you’re all about ‘Defending freedom’, not ‘Arming the insane’ or ‘Helping third world despots since 1988′. If you’re McDonalds, you’re “Lovin’ It”, not “Cramming half a day’s calories into one meal”. 

 

Brands are therefore only a group of people working under a masthead, under a certain framework, with a certain goal. It’s no different to any other organisation, social group, or anywhere else really where two or more people get together and decide to act in a certain way. Where the real problem lies I believe, is when there is active deceit involved.

I posted in my Uni blog yesterday a post about a Japanese badminton racket brand Yonex and their propensity for ‘pseudo-science’ in generating world record smash speeds that can’t be duplicated on the court, and have made no difference whatsoever for sponsored players in world rankings. I’ve decided that I don’t really have a problem with this as the notion of ‘story telling’ is fundamental to the human condition, and that because there is no active deceit, if people believe the claims or believe it’s actual science then really they’re the one with the problem. Yonex isn’t lying, they’re just telling the story in a way that’s pro their business.

This ‘pandering to the human condition’, that is, taking advantage of the fact that we’re all a bit dazed and confused and emotionally stilted, is still for me a bit of a grey area. I think as a brand it’s hard not to strike a chord with people’s emotions, to tell a story, to speak of dreams, but at some point you’re not really helping to raise the standards and then there is larger picture ethical questions at hand. For example, it didn’t do McDonalds any favours in the ‘McLibel’ case to argue that Coke had health benefits because it ‘contained water’. Brands are dogmatic, single-minded beasts, so it’s really up to consumers to get them to move on the big picture stuff, but there should also be a certain level of responsibility shown by brands that they are dynamic and can change with the times if there is something greater at stake, like people’s health. Where this becomes a problem and counter-productive to society at large is when brands become so ‘egotistical’ and dogmatic that even when their own science says their product is killing people, they ignore it – such as with James-Hardy with asbestos and the tobacco industry.

 

To that I either say, change your business model, change your brand, or die. A brand is simply an target to throw money at at the end of the day, so if it ever gets to the point where things no longer do what they say on the tin, then it’s ‘adios muchacho!’ and time to move on.

Dysfunctional Minimalism

I’m a bit of a camera fan I must admit, and even (slightly ashamedly) don’t mind a bit of retroism when it comes to my cameras. However, Jonathan Ives and Marc Newson have got their hands on a Leica and done this to it….

 

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Jony Ive, design mastermind at Apple, and Marc Newson, the creative force behind the thoroughly unconventional Pentax K-01, have collaborated with Leica to design a special edition Leica M for a good cause. The unique M will be sold at auction, at an event raising money for The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The one-of-a-kind camera is the product of 85 days’ work and no less than 1000 prototype parts.

The finished result is a good deal more restrained than Newson’s last attempt at camera design, and betrays Ive’s obsessive focus on details which is usually showcased in Apple’s line of computers and mobile devices. But despite the eye-catching brushed aluminum shell and rounded accents, the finished camera is still unmistakably a Leica. What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.

 

On dpreview.com someone describes this as ‘dysfunctional minimalism’ and I think this is a good way to describe the design ethos of Ives and Apple, and to some degree Newson as well. There is a kind of ‘fetishism’ at play in the current design paradigm, which is either an obsession with reductionism for it’s own sake, or a kind of “snickering behind the hand” kind of pandering to the public, as if they are not sophisticated enough to handle anything more complex, or dare we say it, functional.

 

There’s nothing terribly clever about reductional minimalism.  Start with a box, add some bits, stop adding bits when things get too messy. Yeah I’m being sarcastic, but what is exactly wrong with say adding an SD card so people control their own content, have some sort of self-determination? When does the desire of the brand to so rigidly conform to a minimalist ideal trump functionality? Should consumers be offended that a brand thinks that the cohesiveness of their brand image is more important than the wants of the consumer themselves? Should we all be offended that we’re forced to comply to someone else’s ethos, rather than have something that merely serves as a platform for which we can express our own?

 

Okay so this is more of a jibe at Apple, but this Leica is really just the silver cherry on top.  Even worse is that fact that it’s a one-off, so basically a toy for the rich (an a do-good vehicle for Ives and Newson which also aligns them with Leica, so nice symbiosis there).

 

If both of these entities were such bleeding hearts, why not do something with what you’re already got?  Both are huge contributors to environmental and health concerns already – electronic waste is now the biggest environmental concern for the earth, and with the previous mental health issues at Foxconn – I dunno….. why not develop a recyclable iPhone?  Why not donate 1% of all of your earnings to AIDS prevention in Africa, if you’re that concerned about it?

 

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Am I learning Anything?

I always find it fascinating when you go into a new venture with a plan and desired outcome, half way through it the plan and potential outcome looks pretty much nothing like the ones that went in.  I don’t have a problem with this as that’s kind of how life generally pans out, and I’ve never really been one for rigid structure anyway.

So three quarters of my way though this great adventure of ‘going back to university after a 20 year absence’, what am I learning, and what can others considering venturing down this road expect?

 

1. ‘Facilitated Learning’.

Constantly spouted by the faculty and lectures when the depth of content is called into question is the notion of ‘facilitated learning’. This is the part where you’re supposed to be a ‘grown up’ and an independent ‘post-grad student’ who does not need to be ‘baby-fed’ everything. However, there’s a very fine line between the student being pro-active, and the University actually giving them something to be pro-active about. It’s at a point now where a few people just don’t bother turning up for classes because the content is so thin that they don’t want to spend 3 hours listening to someone dribble-on.

 

2. One Year for a GradDip is Not Enough.

As with my first experience at University, the course I’m doing is quite new, and as a result I don’t think it’s even remotely fully fleshed out, nor long enough to really get a good grounding in most aspects. For example, I think psychology and sociology is a big part of design anthropology because you have to know why people do what they do, not just how people do what they do.  Yet there’s no subjects in either. “Psychology and Sociology for Design” is a much needed subject.  I’m also doing a subject called “Design for Global Context” yet for some reason we’re spending the entire semester on ‘Counterfeiting’.  Now, I don’t know much, but there’s much more to global design than that, and even then it’s kind of ‘anti-design’… Like asking an Ambulance driver to write about Undertakers.  This is supposed to be a design course, not a law course.

Because of all this, I’m finding that I’m needing (and wanting, in some cases) to do much more reading than is supplied in the recommended reading lists.  A LOT more.  It’s great, but it’s a massive time sink that means that when it comes to writing papers, there’s little if any time for drafts and editing.

 

3. The Mythical ‘Work/Life’ Balance.

Trying to manage a household, do the odd bit of freelance work AND do four subjects is a bit of a stretch.  Yet despite the fact that the content is a bit thin for my likings, I don’t feel like I have adequate time to get a good handle on any given topic.  Topics I think we should spend about an hour going over in a lecture takes about 3, and then on top of that you have to do 3 more readings and then write a blog entry on it. The speed of academia definitely doesn’t equal the speed of commerce. The upside to this is that you can learn things for their own sake, and you actually have time to think about things and research things simply that you find interesting, but the time-management of the course is quite a lumbering beast, to say the least.

 

4. Academic-Style vs Real-World-Style

I have an aversion to methodical, systematic academic writing. It’s like a secret-handshake, designed solely to intimidate and alienate. If you’re coming to a post-grad course from industry, it seems like a waste of time to have to assimilate when it’s not a skill you can really take back to the real world with you.  If you wrote like that for a client you’d be shown the door, so why we’re encouraged to do so I really don’t know.  As a result I do this weird hybrid style to try and appease both. At least they seem pretty lenient with that in terms of marking.

The other issue is the acquisition of real-world skills. I’m not actually sure if I have any! I can definitely say I’m a much more analytical, well-rounded designer now with a lot more evidence-based learning to back up my ideas and ethos, but I’m not sure how that will translate to employment.  I can see potential benefits, but I’m not sure that DA in Australia is at that stage yet, or actually more importantly whether Australian business knows or understands the benefits, let alone are in acknowledgement that there is a better way of doing things.

So, what is ‘Design Anthropology’ anyway?

During my first semester of the course, one of the things we had to do at the end of the first week was, in our own words, define to someone in the business world what exactly DA is. 6 months later, and my definition has changed.

 

The common definition is basically that DA is “The use of information garnished from the user experience to inform the design process.”

 

It’s my belief that this is the easily understandable and friendly face of DA, but it’s not the whole picture. For DA to be truly valuable and sustainable in the long term, it has to focus not on the ‘user experience’ but instead, the ‘human experience’. DA is the counterpoint to marketing.  Whereas marketing is often tapping into the base of the human experience, exploiting ‘opportunities’ though a complex system of tapping into peoples fears and insecurities with the goal of maximising ROI.

 

DA on the other hand acknowledges the human experience and all it’s negatives and positives, but choses instead to focus on the positive aspects of what it means to be human, but also recognising in the cold light of day that the ‘user’ is not the be-all-and-end-all of the interaction between design and people, and that people have some fundamental flaws which we must actively discourage if we are to have any sort of future worth living in.

 

Now, I realise there is the potential of this concept coming across as a bit sanctimonious  and risks the possibility of continuing the trend of my generations’ tendency to think of design as the ‘god-like ability to create stuff’ and the consumers of ‘design style’ to feel justified in their rampant consumption.

 

But the elephant in the room is simply this.  If we all agree that things cannot continue as they are – and it’s clear that the Western lifestyle is unsustainable and that there is 3 billion Chinese and Indians dying to be just like us – then we need an entirely new value system and a lifestyle that is going to be sustainable for the majority of people on the planet. So this begs the question, “Who’s going to instigate this change?”  The marketing and comms people?  Big business? The banks?  Nah, I don’t think so.

 

So, someone has to drive this change, and in my 40 years on this planet, I can’t see how it can come from any other sector except design.  For me, this is the first stepping stone. I feel like I’m in the right sector, and now, I have to figure out how I can assess the current state-of-play in terms of what DA is and how it can inform the world, and what I can bring to the table.

 

The first step for me is ‘de-industrialisation’.  More on that later.

My Second Pair of Shoes

Alright, so I finished my second pair of actually wearable shoes. These are the funky Long Ball Lace inspired design, but using a stitch-down construction. The pattern needs some more tweaking, but the fit is exactly where I want it.  The fit really is quite amazing. There’s none of the ‘floppy’ feeling of the first pair of wearable shoes I made, and the fit seems equally as good on the left as it does on the right. I’m not totally sure how I managed that because the pattern for both is identical (but my feet aren’t).

So, what did I learn making these?

  1. You really do need to add a heel counter, it makes the shoe fit better and makes it more stable.
  2. Adding layers such as another strip of leather on the inside to reinforce the lace holes is a good idea because the leather I used is quite soft and stretchy.
  3. Leather such as the offcut I used for the uppers stretches more in one direction than it does the other, so next time, I need to make sure that for each piece of the pattern, the stretch goes in the same direction.

So what would I change to the pattern?

  1. I’m working on a new sole/last shape that is a bit better looking. Each iteration gets better, which is good.
  2. The front ‘toes’ panel needs it’s shape reworked.  I think looks-wise it would be better if there was less thickness variation along it’s length. From some angles the shoe looks…..like it’s melting.
  3. On the outside, there needs to be more ‘sweep’ where the outer transitions into the section where the lace holes are. It kinks and is a bit too abrupt. A simple fix.

I’ve also noticed that with stitch-down, you need an insole especially because the heel of your foot is rounded, so you need to get rid of the transition where the upper curves back out after it’s stitched. I was trying to figure out why the back of the shoe wasn’t as comfortable as I’d hoped, then when I popped a thin terry and latex insole in there the lumpiness went away and they started to feel amazing.

I’ve been wearing them for the past two days straight, and all I can say really is that they fit fantastic and so far, no issues. As they are zero drop shoes with only 4.5mm of material between you and the ground, they very much give you that ‘barefoot’ feel and that does take some getting used to.  You quickly realise how much with other shoes you strike your heel on the ground when you walk, because with these you just can’t do that.  However with these, you kind of feel lower to the ground, more in touch, and more agile somehow, which I like.

I think it would be a great challenge to make some sort of sporting shoes once I get more skilled, but next up, I think I’m going to revisit the desert boots with an improved sole and pattern.

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Okay, maybe just one more…

Now you’ll have to cut me some slack here, dear reader, because I told a little fib.

I wasn’t going to do any more work on this design because to be frank it’s not an easy pattern to try and figure out and after the last one, I thought I had a relative long way to go before I was even close to figuring out all of it’s little curves and creases.  I said it was 90% there, but I had my doubts.

I’d run out of thread so I went to Lefflers’ for a rummage this morning. Whilst bemoaning my lack of funds and the kilometers of leather beckoning me from the racks, I was thinking about what I needed to get to the point where I actually had a pair of functioning shoes.

I felt the desert boots were very close, so with a ream of olive green suede leather I decided I really needed to make another pair where I’ve refined the shape of the toe box and vamp, The sole/last shape has evolved quite a bit from the desert boots and I’m really happy with the shape. All I need to do this is find some more sole leather, and by a stroke of luck I found an off-cut that’s good enough for two pairs of shoes (Otherwise I’d have to buy a whole piece and that my friends is somewhere between $100-130.). So, I’m good to go with Operation Desert Boots 2.

Now, that left me with a not quite right of Long Ball Lace prototype, and having it sit there is like unfinished business, so whilst I was daydreaming in Lefflers’ I thought ‘bugger it, I’ll make another one”.  So here it is (sans sole) –

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The fit on these is amazing. It’s reassuring to know that every shoe I do, I get a better understanding of ergonomics and the shape of my foot. For example, did you know that chances are, the ‘ankle’ bone on the inside of your foot and the one on the outside are not in the same place, so that little dip on the side of your shoe where your ankle goes shouldn’t be the same on both sides? There’s a litany of things like this that you notice when you start to make minimalist ergonomic shoes.

So from here I’m almost keen to make the matching left hand one, because I’ve got some ideas for the sole that minimises the amount of man-mate materials and I’m not sure how it’s going to work, so I’d like to try it out. The other issue is my pesky smaller left foot, so I’m keen to work on that so in the end, when I make shoes for myself, both left and right will fit perfectly.

End of Prototyping

Okay, so I think I’m done with this design. I probably need another iteration of the vamp-tongue because this one is too loose, but I’d say I’m 90% there. I had a bit of a play with crossover-whipstitching on the top portion and I kinda like it, but not sure if I should do the entire shoe with just saddle stitching or do a mix.  For the sole I want to add an EVA layer between the sole and the last, and I’d like to last  the upper to a proper piece of veg tanned soling material. Pretty big money investment in raw materials if I go that route, so I’m not sure whether to do another design which I can utilise the big piece of olive suede I already have to make, or what to do from here really. I have a desire to make a pair of boat shoes now but I think that’s because I’ve been spending too much time looking at people’s feet! Those things are everywhere at the moment.

 

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