Kui Cai

In Conversation With: Kui Cai

February 19, 2022

 Global Footwear Awards winner,  Kui Cai, discussed 3D SPHERE , GFA 2021 Brand of the Year.

Global Footwear Awards (GFA) has begun its global search to identify visionary designers in footwear. 3D SPHERE was awarded Brand of the Year as well as Winners in Fashion Sneakers, 3D printing and Sustainable manufacturing.



3D SPHERE” is an innovative, fully 3D printed lifestyle shoe that is 100% recyclable. The objective was to reimagine how footwear can be made and its lifecycle. By leveraging 3D printing technology, we wanted to deliver a sustainable closed-loop product for our consumers – from data collection to customization, 3D printing, and recycling. Compared to other 3D footwear on the market, the “3D Sphere” is fully recyclable, utilizing the user’s foot scan, to create a unique aesthetic and personalized product.

More about Kui Cai’s background:

Graduated from Art Center GradID, Kui Cai is a strategic innovator and sneaker designer with over ten years of experience in the sports industry. In 2019, He established the multifaceted creative studio- PEAK SPORTS USA DESIGN CENTER. Currently, He is the Design Director of this design studio in L.A. Kui Cai’s footwear designs received many international design awards such as Red Dot Design Award, Spark Design Award, Global Footwear Award, Golden Pin Design Award, and Design Intelligence Award. Through Kui Cai’s professional career, he led and created disruptive business strategies, product plans, and designs. He piloted brand collaboration across multi celebrities and brands and created signature footwear designs for NBA players such as Jason Kidd, Shane Battier, Andrew Wiggins, and more.


GFA talks with Kui Cai’s winning project

What do you see as the strengths of your winning project? 

In today’s consumerist society, most products are designed to become obsolete quickly. The “3D Sphere” marks an important step towards a circular economy where products can be reused at their full potential. We also improved PEAK’s supply chain and 3D printing capabilities to ensure the scalability of this project.


What does this award mean to you personally?  

Receiving awards is a huge encouragement for us to continually pursue the idea of the circular economy and environmental protection. Also, it validated our vision of “free your feet from the standard” and sculpture-like design aesthetics.


Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work? 

Movies, Music, Art… basically the talented creators in different fields that make me want to join them. 


How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision?

The environment I grew up in, the culture, and the language are my natural gifts. They made me who I am today. They also became the fundamental programming code for my creative journey.


What’s your think about the different creative processes and softwares and how they play a role in design today?

If the designer is a superhero in the movie, in my opinion,  his/her superpower is creativity. The creative processes, software that could boost creativity-power are the secret weapon. 


How has the pandemic affected your work and design process?

The uncertainty caused by the pandemic forces us to explore more 3D printing and new manufacturing process to solve problems. For example, during the lockdown, many manufacturers have not been able to assist in designing iterations and producing on a large scale, we developed 3D printed face mask adjustment accessory that is breathable, flexible, and recyclable. And the design was “open-sourced” and shared with 3D printing companies. Finally, the production has reached more than 1,000 units per day and all the products had been sent out to the hospitals for free. 


How do you deal with feedback?

I seek feedback and I will listen to it. Because I believe every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work. Thanks to all of the valuable comments for the 3D sphere project from the GFA jury team! I love all of them!


What would you tell your younger self seeing you winning the awards?

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”


What do you wish to see more of in the footwear industries?

More sustainable projects which could contribute differently to our footwear industries! 


With so many designs coming out daily, how do you keep pushing boundaries in footwear design?

In my opinion, the footwear designer is very similar to the marathon runner or a novelist. The creativity path can be a journey without a finish line. If we only concentrate on the design several hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, we can not keep the consistency of the work. Not to mention pushing the boundaries of the design. The endurance and the commitment are very important.


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.

View other GFA 2021 Winners here


The Global Footwear Awards

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Los Angeles, CA 90021 USA

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