Global Footwear Awards (GFA) has begun its global search to identify visionary designers in footwear. Pointe.2 was awarded Best Overall in 3D Print footwear, medical footwear as well as Footwear Innovation.
A smart footwear system to help ballet dancers train better & lower injury risk. Each dancer’s foot is scanned to produce a custom 3D printed elastomeric shell & toe protector -Unlike traditional ballet shoes, these stretch & adapt to the user’s movements. Cushioning modules reduce impact & a smart insole records pressure distribution & galvanic response to infer pain points. Footage of the dancer can be played back in-app with the sensory data to detect movements that result in pain & potentially injury. Components of the shoe aren’t glued together so parts can be replaced as they wear out.
GFA talks with Abdul’s background and his winning project
Tell us about your background and your journey to footwear design?
I’ve always had somewhat of an interest in fashion and footwear, I imagine spending too much time on tumblr during my teens probably added to this. My tastes and requirements for the things I own started to become more unique as I wanted them to solve specific problems in my life and also just feel like ‘me’. This is what pushed me into making things for myself and cutting up my old shoes to see what I could do with them. Growing up, air forces had basically become part of my school uniform, I wore them everyday and knew them like the back of my hand – I think they were the first pair of shoes I ever made something with. I went on to study product design at University which helped me develop some of the skills I needed to start exploring other aspects of footwear design.
What was most important for you when working on this project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
The most important thing was to make sure I had a solution that would work in a practical scenario and be a feasible option for real-life, everyday use – I wanted to provide something which works around the ballet dancer rather than forcing them to adapt to a new product. One of the biggest challenges I faced was likely the issues that arose with covid. Not having access to university equipment meant I had to get very creative with my development and testing.
Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work?
It ranges from previous experiences to just things I see in day-to-day life. My motivation and inspiration can come from almost anywhere, I think having varied sources leads to far more interesting projects.
How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design?
I spent most of my free time drawing when I was younger & really wanted to be a fine artist but then I started experimenting in 3D and discovered how much I loved it. I later began to gravitate towards architecture but soon realised I had a preference for working on a smaller scale.
Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?
So far it would probably be this project. I learned quite a lot over the process and sort of realised there are usually a few ways to tackle a problem – the process may not always be the most conventional or ‘pretty’ but as long as it results in any form of progress then I think that’s fine.
How do you feel footwear design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Technology has had a huge impact on footwear design recently as its allowed designers to harness data and better understand the needs of the athletes they’re designing for. Tools like generative design have allowed designers to meet those needs in previously unattainable ways. I think cross-collaboration between traditional design and computational design will continue to develop alongside more integration of electronics and smart wearables.
What kind of culture or structure needs to exist to foster successful team collaboration?
Placing less of a boundary between different disciplines could potentially benefit a lot of industries. I think people might produce better work with fewer barriers between them and the other aspects of a project. Perhaps things just need to be a bit more open and flexible both in terms of culture and organisational structures so there are more opportunities for collaboration both within and across teams.
What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you?
I recently started working as a product designer for a small tech accessories company. Right now I’m just trying to learn as much as possible and leverage the support available to develop as a designer and make sure I have a strong foundation going forward.
How has the pandemic affected your work and design process?
Primarily it’s just made organic collaboration a little more difficult. There are a plethora of online tools to sort of mitigate this but nothing really beats just being in the same room as other designers or intended users and physically interacting with each other and the product/s you’re developing. However, the pandemic has highlighted some new ways of working and some advantages of working digitally.
How do you feel about the topic of sustainability and social impact in regards to footwear design in general?
They’re really big topics as of late and it’s great they’re a part of the conversation. I know footwear isn’t the most sustainable industry and I appreciate the issues involved with attempting to make it so. But I hope it’ll eventually just become another aspect of good design that companies strive for as a normal part of their development process and not as separate special projects or marketing ploys.
Where do you start when tackling innovative design solutions?
First by just trying to understand the problem better & finding the right questions to ask. I like to map out the problem and outline the different factors which contribute to it, then find out how these factors interact with each other.
The Global Footwear Design Awards (GFA) is announcing winners for its second edition, showcasing a variety of exceptional creative potential across 20+ categories in all levels; Brands, Independent and Students. The GFA recognizes visionary design talent from around the world with an ambition to provide the highest recognition to footwear designers in all categories including sustainability and social impact.
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