Complex: 25 Must-See Design Sketches Of Your Favorite Sneakers - ConceptKicks
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Complex: 25 Must-See Design Sketches Of Your Favorite Sneakers

Just came across this gem written by Russ Bengston for Complex, compiling the 25 must-see shoe design sketches behind some of the most popular sneakers on the planet, check the list out below, or see the full article, here.

Nike Air MAG

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 2015

As Tinker tells it, he only agreed to design the Air MAG for Back to the Future Part II if he could storyboard the entire scene. Needless to say, he got what he wanted.

And1 Tai Chi Mid

Designer: Tuan Le
Year: 1998

The And1 Tai Chi might stand as the company’s defining product – helped by Vince Carter’s outrageous performance in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk contest. The simplification of the final design from this sketch didn’t hurt

adidas Crazy Light 2

Designer: Robbie Fuller
Year: 2012

Sneaker design is a lot like car design – the starting point is often rather, shall we say, unrealistic. These sleek designs were never going to work on-foot as-is, but they got Fuller where he needed to go.

Nike Air Jordan III

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 1988

Originally dubbed the Air Jordan Revolution, the third Air Jordan was Tinker Hatfield’s first. Maybe eventually there will be an “Air Jordan III Retro Sketch” released with Nike Air on the tongue like it appears in the upper right. But we doubt it.

Nike Air Yeezy 2

Designer: Nathan Van Hook
Year: 2012

There is considerable difference between a rough first sketch – which could be on a napkin or a piece of scrap paper – and a more finalized rendering. This colored-in Yeezy 2 isn’t quite the end product, but it’s awfully close.

Nike Air Flight Huarache

Designer: Eric Avar
Year: 1991

It’s amazing how intricate a simple product can be. The Air Flight Huarache’s cutaways saved weight, but in order for the shoe to be a viable basketball product, it still needed to be rock solid. Eric Avar’s work was cut out for him. Er, so to speak.

New Balance MT110

Designer: New Balance
Year: 2011

Designing isn’t always just about sketching. Those basic principles below the sketch helped keep the New Balance designers on point.

Nike Lunar Force 1

Designer: Marc Dolce
Year: 2012

One could argue that Lunar Force 1 designer Marc Dolce had it easy – seeing that the Air Force 1 was already designed, he just needed to update it. But rethinking something so iconic brings its own problems. Clearly Nike picked the right man for the job.

Nike Air Trainer 1

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 1986

Design sketches aren’t meant for display – they’re just intended to ensure the samples match up to what the designer dreamt up. That said, this Tinker Hatfield sketch (which appears to correct an earlier mock-up) is suitable for framing. Even the handwriting is beautiful.

Nike Air Force Max

Designer: Steve McDonald
Year: 1991

When it came to designing a shoe for a beast like Charles Barkley, it made sense to turn the reins over to the creative director of Nike ACG. Steve McDonald’s design still holds up well 20-plus years later.

Nike Eric Koston 1

Designer: Shawn Carboy
Year: 2012

Shawn Carboy and Eric Koston had worked together on signature product before, so when it came time to design Koston’s first Nike SB signature shoe, the groundwork was already set. Pretty much everything you need to know about the EK1 is on this page.

Nike Zoom JST

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 1998

OK, it’s not really a sketch, but this patent application is still part of what goes into sneaker design. A lot of times it seems that patents are applied for after the product is already manufactured, perhaps so there are no further changes after the fact.

Nike Air Max LeBron VII

Designer: Jason Petrie
Year: 2009

Jason Petrie’s first signature shoe design for LeBron James was also the first LeBron shoe to feature full-length Air Max. No pressure or anything.

Nike Lunar Flow

Designer: Nathan Van Hook
Year: 2011

Just because a new design is built off an old one doesn’t make the process any easier. Even if a new detail is simply cribbed from the old shoe, it needs to be in there.

Nike Air Footscape Woven Chukka Motion

Designer: Nathan Van Hook
Year: 2011

We’re guessing every spot didn’t wind up where they appear on this sketch, but that’s probably the only aspect that wasn’t exact.

adidas adiZero Rose 2.0

Designer: Robbie Fuller
Year: 2011

Rough design, complete with airbrushing, but even at this stage all the basic elements are there. You don’t need to read the name to know what model this is.

Nike Air Raid

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 1991

Sometimes a product brief can be as simple as two words – “Summer B-ball.” The finished product, the Nike Air Raid, encapsulated those two words about as well as a sneaker could.

Nike Air Penny V

Designer: Marc Dolce
Year: 2012

Outside of the Air Jordan line, the concept of designing signature product for a retired athlete doesn’t really exist. In the case of the Air Penny V, it was made even more daunting by the fact that the previous model, the Air Penny IV, was released in 1998. What Marc Dolce came up with was something of a remix of the iconic Air Penny II as seen through a 2012 filter. Perfect.

Nike Air Foamposite One

Designer: Eric Avar
Year: 1996

Long before #itsjustdifferent became a lazy hashtag, the Air Foamposite One was exactly that. Brand-new production techniques called for a bold new design, and Eric Avar was more than up for the task. The branding and the speedlacing didn’t find their way to the final product, but the basic shape was there from the start.

Reebok The Pump

Designer: Paul Litchfield
Year: 1990

If this rendering of the original Reebok Pump upper looks more like a tracing of a photo, it could very well have been – by the time they applied for the patent, the sneaker was already on the market. Easier than drawing, anyway.

Puma Disc Blaze

Designer: Jon Tang
Year: 2012

The basic Disc Blaze design was done a long time ago, but Ronnie Fieg got with Jon Tang to do some reworking to the iconic Puma runner, re-working the toebox and applying some of Fieg’s signature color.

Nike Zoom Kobe IV

Designer: Eric Avar
Year: 2008

This sketch illustrates – pun intended – how much more goes into sneaker design that just drawing. From Kobe’s quote to the weight target, there were lots of goals to be met – and one demanding athlete to answer to.

Nike Air Jordan XI

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Year: 1994

It makes sense that one of the most iconic sneakers of all-time has a long backstory. Tinker Hatfield started work on the Air Jordan XI when Mike was off playing baseball and continued to develop it even though his Nike bosses believed Jordan was retired for good. Wise decision, as it turned out.

Nike Air Yeezy

Designer: Kanye West
Year: 2009

You know that famous photo of Kanye sketching on a plane? Looks like they may have hit some turbulence.

Nike Air Max2 CB

Designer: Eric Avar
Year: 1994

The straitjacket-inspired Air Max2 CB is one of the most appropriate signature shoe designs ever. It’s also never really gotten dated, which is why Nike can keep remaking it over and over. This sketch shows the method behind the madness.