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Around Design Podcast — episode one: Jóse Monroy

It’s the first episode of the Around Design podcast! Inaugural guest Jóse Monroy sits down with Daniela Paredes to talk about fluid approaches to product design, maintaining communication throughout projects, and why 3D is key for his workflow.

Gravity Sketch
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Jóse’s design career path

As a child with a love of drawing, Jóse knew early on that he didn’t want to go down the Art route, but instead wanted to pursue product design. When studying industrial design at San Francisco State University, a chance encounter when presenting soccer footwear ideas led to a design role at a small footwear company; from there he gained more than 10 years experience in footwear design covering a wide range of styles and uses. Now, as an independent designer, he relishes the freedom he has to select the projects he works on, and have more control over what the process and collaboration with a client looks like. 

The area that his work currently gravitates towards is fashion footwear. This is an area where he feels he can use his previous footwear experience, which ranges from casual to equestrian, to provide him with a great pool of references, whilst continuing to enrich his design style.


Ever-changing references

Jóse’s process is particularly fluid, and his approach to footwear can see multiple references flow in and out of scope across the course of his product design process. While the initial inspiration is rarely entirely removed, it doesn’t necessarily directly inform the final design. The culmination of this fluidity, and his previous experience, makes for a unique point of view when it comes to the visual stories in his designs and collections.

He takes from traditional forms of inspiration such as art and sculpture, but these sit alongside more practical references from his industrial design background: he looks at iconic products and digs into which elements of the design makes it what it is. This mix of functional and aesthetic inspiration is part of his recipe that continues to evolve and expand. Each design is viewed with the potential to be the start of a cohesive collection.

Martian surfaces shoes designed by Jóse Monroy for Pale Purple

Martian surfaces: Jóse’s unique take on casual and streetwear driven by the idea of functionality and complete customization through the use of removable shrouds

Keeping open communication with clients

As well as a fluid process, Jóse takes a fluid approach to communication with collaborators and clients, wanting to maintain a constant and open dialogue with them. He doesn’t want to feel as though the client is entirely separated from his design, especially in the initial stages where ideas are filtered out. This allows him to get ahead of the game by knowing what the final idea could look like and what is potentially out of scope as soon as possible.

It’s also about learning from the others involved in the process, and leaving room for everyone’s viewpoint to help shape a design. Jóse can use the information and expertise that come from others’ experiences not only in the project being focused on, but in future designs.

A 3D revelation

Jóse wanted to be able to show clients more than just a 2D sketch to communicate his ideas, and has now adopted 3D as an early part of his workflow: he begins in ArtStation to curate his references, before making any alterations in photoshop, then he jumps straight into Gravity Sketch to ideate in 3D. Past this point the design goes into KeyShot for rendering and color adjustments. This way of working provides something more understandable to a client as they are able to explore the different viewpoints and angles of a design that just isn’t possible in a 2D sketch. As Jóse says, ‘Not everyone can imagine a 3D product’, so bringing it into 3D makes a world of difference to his intent being interpreted correctly. 

Before 2020 his experience of 3D primarily revolved around CAD programs which he found dull, and restrictive in terms of his creativity. He then saw people introducing 3D work on Instagram and didn’t want to be left behind like some of the designers he had previously worked alongside. As someone who wants to continue adapting and learning new tools, he decided to give Gravity Sketch a try.

It took him about two weeks to get used to using it, and adapting to new equipment such as a headset, but he found it very intuitive. Seeing results emerge in such a short timeframe meant he didn’t want to go back to being a “2D designer”. Jóse digs deeper into this switch towards a 3D-first approach in his 2022 Around session: Crossing the bridge between 2D and 3D.

More from Around

You can listen to all the Around Design Podcast episodes, or watch previous sessions from the Around 3D Design Festival all on the Around website.

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen on the go with Spotify, and Apple podcasts.

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