This is part 15 of the Freelap Friday Five Series, Season Three. To review the past 45 interviews, click here.
Part 1 was Jeff Cubos, Chiropractor and Performance Therapist
Part 2 was John Godina, World Athletics Center founder & Elite Shot Putter
Part 3 was Questions & Answers from Peter Weyand’s Research
Part 4 was Dr. Thomas Lam, focusing on Movement Based Sports Science
Part 5 was Landon Evans, Strength & Conditioning Coach & Nutrition Coordinator
Part 6 was Gabe Sanders, Assistant T&F coach of Boston University
Part 7 was Dr Jess Greaux, on Rehab and Biomechanics
Part 8 was Merlene Ottey – Queen of the Track
Part 9 was So You Want to Be a Decathlete? w/ Eric Broadbent
Part 10 was Jay DeMayo, U of Richmond’s S&C Coach.
Part 11 was Jessica Zelinka, Heptathlete and SuperMom!
Part 12 was James Smith, aka “The Thinker”
Part 13 was Brian Theriot, UCLA Sprinter turned Pro 800/Mile
Part 14 was Carl Valle, USATF Level 2 Sprints & Hurdles Coach
[Tweet “Interview with Mark Kokavec, on Designing Shoes and Spikes”]
Mark Kokavec is an experienced footwear designer currently working with New Balance in Boston MA. He’s worked for major brands like Reebok, Converse/Nike, Burton, Merrell, Oakley and Under Armour.
Mark founded www.renderdemo.com, an online design resource where artists and designers can enhance their sketching and rendering techniques using step-by-step instructional video tutorials. He graduated from the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit.
Interview with Mark Kokavec, on Designing Shoes and Spikes
Question 1: Mark, you have experience with shoe design with some of the biggest names is footwear and have designed shoes for elite athletes. What are your thoughts on 3-D printing and the open source revolution creating more interest in athletic shoe design?
Mark Kokavec: Traditionally, designers sketch their ideas on paper working about 75% of the time in 2D space. The other 25% is working on physical prototype models of shoes. Taping those up and sketching on the shoe to make revisions to a design. Being able to visualize your ideas in a 3 dimensional space earlier in the process allows for a faster process, saves time and money, generates new ideas, ability for better decision making and of course… better product at the end of the day! It has opened up a new way of thinking about footwear design.
SpeedEndurance: With the availability of DIY (do-it -yourself) software and materials, do you see an explosion of interest in education with shoe design or is it too early?
Mark Kokavec: There are some great advancements happening in the 3D printing area. Its still a little early for individuals to start making rapid prototypes of performance footwear that they can wear from their desktop “Makerbot”. But its only a matter of time as this area is evolving at an explosive pace and the models and materials are getting better and better.
Question 2: Minimalism footwear is growing, thus changing the demands of doing more with less in design. Elegant style is very difficult, what do you see as popular innovations in the next few years?
Mark Kokavec: That’s a tough one as future innovations are a closely guarded secret until ready to hit retail. Its extremely difficult to come up with a “game changing” innovation. Everyone is trying to do the same thing and come to the table with their own unique point of view. What I can say is that your right, the trend has been to move away from over built footwear and technology platforms to a more sophisticated and simple design solution. I see this continuing for the next couple years. I do feel that there have only been subtle advances in upper technology therefore that’s where I see the opportunity to move the needle and be innovative.
SpeedEndurance: But regardless of function, form is a huge part of shoe design as EVERYONE loves aesthetics. What are some good concepts to think about with minimal footwear design?
Mark Kokavec: Every design begins with biomechanics. How the foot moves and flexes during the gait cycle. Our feet have become accustomed to having plush foam materials that provide impact absorption and cushioning. As you go towards minimal the foot adapts to having less material.
Question 3: I noticed your book (details below) covers a little anatomy of the foot, a very complicated joint system. What are some other important educational materials besides gross anatomy designers should know? Many designers don’t have a medical background so any guidance would be great.
Mark Kokavec: First off, a good “designer” needs to be trained in the fundamentals of design. Perspective, Proportions, Lighting, Shading, Color Theory are all important skills to master in order to become a great designer. Specifically for footwear… understanding how a shoe is put together and the different processes involved in manufacturing is also an advantage. Biomechanics differs by sport and function so understanding the basics such as: Foot Strike, Pressure maps and patterns, Gender Differences, Heat and Moisture management, Pronation vs Supination, etc will help you become a well rounded designer.
SpeedEndurance: I believe drawing is a great way for coaches and medical professionals to be more familiar with the biomechanics of the foot, no?
Mark Kokavec: In my sketchbook “How to Draw SHOES”, I try to show the reason why the shoe looks a specific way. Starting with the foot bone and musculature system and overlaying the Last (the form used to build shoes around), you start to make the connection and learn how to draw a shoe correctly using guidelines and templates. This sketchbook is a great way to get your ideas and concepts onto paper in the proper proportions.
Question 4: The spike plate is a 100 years old and not much has changed in sprint shoes. What are the challenges you think designers have with constraints such as the track spike to keep things fresh and exciting?
Mark Kokavec: The biggest challenge with footwear in general is that everyone’s feet are different and unique. The industry tries to simplify by collecting data across a large population segment and create footwear based on averages. For some this works, while for others it may not fit right requiring them to go up or down in size. Specific to track spikes… although there hasn’t been much that changed from a hundred years ago, there are some new cutting edge advancements in technology that is allowing us to focus on creating a product that is optimized for each individuals unique running style and gait pattern. We use pressure map analytics and high speed photography to determine the ideal placement of the spikes and traction elements. We can also look at stiffening specific areas to optimize power with each stride. When each millisecond can be the difference from 1st to 2nd place finish, any advantage goes a long way.
Question 5: Inspiration with shoe design can come from strange places or other fields. If you had to design a spike for Jenny Barringer Simpson, what changes would you make to give her something ready for Rio 2016?
Mark Kokavec: Jenny is a world-class champion so creating a spike for her that will enhance her performance and help shave a few seconds off her time is the ultimate goal. But we also want her to look cool when she crosses the finish line so aesthetics is very important. Balancing performance with style can sometimes be tricky. In my opinion, performance should always trump style when it comes to elite athletes! Finding that balance is the key. When it comes to inspiration… I tend to find personal inspiration from a few different places. My main influence is from the entertainment industry. I find that there is a lot of creativity that happens in this field due to the unlocked boundaries of reality. There aren’t as many design constraints to work around so the mind as able to push the limits of creativity. I have folders that are broken down into specific parts so when I’m doing research, I place inspirational images there and refer to them all the time. I also look to other industries for inspiration such as automotive, furniture, product design and architecture. I’m always searching for images that are pushing the limits of creativity and try to do the same in my footwear designs.
Bonus Question 6: Just to clarify, can you explain your kickstarter campaign, and what do you hope your backers will get out of it?
Mark Kokavec: My project is called “HOW TO DRAW SHOES Sketchbook” by Render Demo.
I wanted to create a sketchbook for anyone interested in learning how to draw shoes. Something that I wish would have been around when I was a young designer just starting out. The book goes over some basics about footwear design such as… foot anatomy, shoe anatomy, types of shoes, proportions, perspectives and more. It uses a “phase-out” process of templates and guidelines that you can sketch over. Hundreds of templates from side views, perspective views, bottom views and more. As you go through the book, guidelines are slowly removed so that by the time you get to the end you are able to sketch and draw your own designs without the need for any guidelines or templates.
For the backers, in addition to become a supporter and getting a copy of this cool sketchbook, I’m also including footwear design video tutorials from my renderdemo.com website. Step-by-step video tutorials that show you design and rendering techniques using digital software like Sketchbook Pro!
There’s also a book signing, Skype 1-on1 portfolio critiques and more as incentives.
UPDATE: The campaign has ended. Click on www.renderdemo.com for more information.
SpeedEndurance: Thanks for taking the time to answer this, and we look forward to the results!
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