Jared’s path to footwear design
Jared Goldman is the Vice President of Design at New Balance, where he is also responsible for 3D visualization and more broadly the performance side of footwear design. Prior to his current role, he spent five years at Under Armour, where he helped start the footwear division, designing the first line of football and baseball cleats, before expanding into other categories.
Growing up, Jared didn’t know exactly where he wanted his career to take him, but he was always interested in tinkering with things and taking them apart to better understand how they were made. He was exposed to creativity through his mum and sister’s interior design firm, as well as his grandfather’s glass business. After considering pursuing architecture he thought it would be a bit too limiting for his interests, and then found industrial design which seemed like the perfect fit.
He studied product design at Syracuse University and was introduced to the footwear industry through a competition called Design Invasion, which he won, leading to an internship and eventual job offer from Reebok. In his first industry role at Reebok, he was able to gain experience designing products for a variety of categories.
Jared admits that his early concept drawings were “not very good”, but he was able to learn a lot from working with other talented designers, and keep refining his tools and honing his abilities in both design and business; he credits his ability to balance both of these as a key factor in his success of rising up the ranks within footwear design.
Effective communication – a key to success
The importance Jared puts on collaboration and effective communication in design workflows is clear: he notes that not everyone on a team will be naturally interested or supportive of a particular design, so it’s important to bring people in early and get them invested in a project. This way, when presenting to leadership, it is not just one person’s idea but a group effort.
The ability to express ideas in a way that non-designers can understand is also crucial to success. 3D assets are helpful in this regard, as they allow others to visualize the product accurately and make informed decisions. “The better you can express your idea so that somebody who’s a non-designer can understand it, the more successful you’re going to be.”
On a personal level, Jared had always looked for ways to use technology to improve the communication of his ideas; early on this meant using Illustrator and Photoshop to compete with other designers who could draw better than him by hand. When starting at New Balance, he wanted designers to start concept drawing in 3D. “The start of it was, ‘Hey, I want us to be able to concept sketch in 3D versus 2D because we can express our ideas better and we can make better decisions.'” He believes that using 3D assets allows designers to accurately convey their vision without the need for guesswork.
New Balance utilizing 3D technology in design has been a journey of evolution over time. Their current workflow involves Gravity Sketch to form early ideation and concept models, with refinements in Modo to bring it to a polished 3D asset. Now, all their designers are training in Gravity Sketch, creating content daily. What Jared initially saw as just a design tool, has become a visualization tool across the company. Their 3D setup also includes a team of 12 people who create 3D assets in-house, as well as 25 others in their factories in Asia. Jared discussed this workflow in detail in his session for the Around Design Festival in 2022.
The many uses of 3D assets
The uses for 3D assets stretch across the entire product design process at New Balance, acting as a single reference for the entire workflow. “We’ve used it on our website. We’ve used it in some social media. So those 3D assets that now start with a designer can be used so many different ways.”
While going fully digital is never a possibility in the footwear industry due to the need to try on and fit test products, Jared acknowledges there are significant benefits to using 3D design in the upfront process. Multiple rounds of design reviews can be done in 3D, which reduces the time and resources required for physical prototypes. Additionally, changing colors and materials on products can be done digitally, which cuts down on the number of prototypes needed.
This approach cuts down on how many samples are made, “we don’t have to ship as many samples. And if we can do it quicker, we can get product to market quicker.” Jared discusses the sustainability aspect of utilizing 3D assets in the design process, highlighting how it can reduce waste in terms of making physical samples that may end up being scrapped. While the scale of this impact may not be huge, it is still a factor that is considered in the overall equation.
Another benefit of 3D technology for Jared’s team is the ability to collaborate and work remotely. With Gravity Sketch Jared acknowledges how virtual reality can be used to bring together teams from around the world. “If I’m able to sit with a team at the factory while I’m sitting here and we’re all looking at the same shoe or spinning it around and we’re noting it and doing all that, that’s to me, just as good as sitting in a factory,” he explained.
The use of 3D design in the footwear industry has led to both success and pushback. Designers who have adopted the technology have seen an improvement in the level of their work, which has created healthy competition amongst colleagues. However, there can remain an expectation for 3D assets that they need to be perfect – there’s a different level of expectation compared to traditional 2D drawings. “I talk about concept sketching, so it’s not perfect, but it’s a 3D model”. This concept model is then used to inform the fully realized and perfected 3D asset.
Jared believes that the key to success with 3D technology is to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with it. “Do you want to teach your designers to be 3D artists? Do you want to bring in a team of 3D artists that just create assets and work with your designers? You want to reduce samples? And then when you figure that out, then you can start to put that plan together,” he said. This is part of the process of setting out a vision that can be shared with the leadership team. If your leadership fully understands the approach and benefits, then they can get on board and provide access to relevant budget.
Future of 3D workflows
As technology continues to advance, Jared believes that virtual reality will become an increasingly important tool for collaboration. He believes it’s changing the skills required of new designers. It becomes an additional check box they have to have with experience of tools such as Blender, Keyshot, and Gravity Sketch. It’s part of their toolset in being able to communicate their design ideas effectively.
Jared notes that the next endeavor of the New Balance team, and the increasing number of footwear companies that are pursuing a 3D-first workflow, is to perfect working with a live 3D asset that can also serve as a tech pack.
More from Around
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