It’s always been of some interest to us when thinking of the actual designers who’ve created some of skateboarding’s most prized shoes. Sure, the pro skateboarder who wears them ultimately makes you want to buy them but it’s the designer who took all the ramblings from your favorite pro & made the shoe that you’re currently drooling over.
Rick happens to be one of those designers we’re describing. He’s made some of the most iconic skate shoes for brands like Sole Tech & at one point, you might’ve found yourself wearing the very shoes he’s conceptualized on your feet. We sent Rick & a few other designers a couple of questions & over the course of the next couple of weeks, you’ll be introduced to the people that not only make your skate shoes but also hear their story. Through these short Q&A’s, find out how you yourself could be in their shoes one day & potentially design the next groundbreaking skate shoe.
What made you want to design skate shoes and who or what inspired you to do so? Designing skate shoes is something that definitely intrigued me, but I’d never imagine that I would be doing it as a career. I’ve been skating since the late 80’s and have skated all kinds of skate shoes, so naturally I’ve always known how skate shoes should feel and perform. My friend Dustin actually inspired me to design shoes. He used to design Kastel Shoes and he would always be wear testing samples. I would always give him some suggestions on design elements and I was taking art classes at the time. One day he approached me and needed some help with work and asked me to sketch up some concepts. He showed the designs to his bosses and the rest is history! I was only there for 5 months and got paid 8 bucks an hour, but I was so stoked to just get my foot in the door and learn as much as I can.
The common misconception is that anyone who’s stepped on a board can design a skate shoe. What’s the actual process behind becoming a skate shoe designer?
People ask me if I just sit at my desk and sketch up shoes all day. For me it’s 30% design and 70% development. You can make some chicken scratch on a post in note and get a good idea of what the shoe will look like in your head. The big challenge is developing/coloring/materializing it to come out exactly how you want it to look. In my role, I do more than design. I have to build the line and make sure everything merchandises with pricing, styling and color themes while working with sales and marketing.
Any job within the skate industry is competitive and hard to get. What’s the reality for someone reading this and actually becoming a skate shoe designer for a brand they grew up loving and respecting?
I would say that talent alone will not help someone get hired. They would have to have a great attitude and team chemistry to reach a common goal. Of course it also helps to know the industry and have some background in school.
What are some difficulties that lie in becoming a skate shoe designer that most people don’t know about?
I think it depends on the company you work for. The bigger the company, the more pressure you get to keep bringing in revenue. The biggest challenge is making sure everyone is happy. As a designer you want to keep progressing with design innovation, but on the sales side of things they would like to keep things a bit safer. It’s a great challenge to figure out how to balance the footwear line. As for the traveling, I do quite a bit of it. There is the development side of things where you have to challenge the factories overseas to execute you designs. I also have to travel to visit certain domestic accounts, but also traveling to Europe for Sales Meeting presentations and Market Travel.
What was your first creation as a shoe designer and looking back on it, do you wish you can change anything on it now?
My first shoe that I designed that made it to production was called the Kastel Zagato. It was so exciting to go through my first process and see it from sketch to hitting the stores. I think I still have a pair somewhere in my parents garage. I wouldn’t change anything now.
Who are some of your favorite designers and why?
For footwear, I am inspired by Tinker Hatfield for many reasons. He definitely pioneered the aesthetics of athletic shoes. I am a huge basketball and basketball shoe fan and some of his concepts were so way ahead of it’s time. I believe he was the first shoe designer to collaborate with an athlete (Michael Jordan) and work with him on the design process.
What advice would you give to anyone reading this in hopes of one day having your job?
Take every opportunity you can take and make the most of it. Work from the bottom and progress to the top.
Thanks to Rick for designing some of our favorite shoes & for taking time off of his tireless design time to answer these questions. If you want to learn more about Rick, check out this older interview he did for Malakye.
Also here’s a list of shoes he’s help design that he’s most hyped on:
–éS Square Two
–éS Theory 1.5
–éS Theory 2.0
–éS Kellen James (never released)