Shoe Designer

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Shoe Designer


Fashion has played an important part in human cultures for thousands and thousands of years. Designers have been making clothing, shoes, and accessories out of beads, cotton, leather, fur, feathers, plastics, and metals for eons. They are talented, trained, and skilled artisans who create wearable, functional art.

Shoe designers have a special role in the fashion design industry. Perhaps the most technical of the design careers, shoe designers combine anatomy, fine art, kinesiology, marketing, engineering, fashion, beauty, and industrial design to create interesting, durable, and attractive footwear for all occasions.

They can work on their own, creating imaginative, exclusive pieces to sell in boutiques, at fairs, and through clothing stores, or they work on staff with a manufacturing company, creating designs for mass creation and sale. Those who work independently have greater freedom, in that they can create work on commission for individual clients, according to the clients' tastes, personalities, and wallets, as well as create work to sell according to their own tastes and preferences. They sell their work through catalogs, online, and in their own boutiques. They may even host their own fashion shows. The drawback is the freedom goes along with job uncertainty, and there are no fringes like benefits and paid vacation days. Many of them also have to assist in the production of their designs, at least when they are starting out.

Designers who join teams at major labels and manufacturing companies have more job benefits, but are less able to create and produce shoes according to their own ideas. They follow the lead of the company's traditions, senior designers, and executives. They may also study designs created by the top shoe designers and modify them for the manufacturing company they work for.

However they choose to work, a shoe designer must start each project according to a plan. They make sketches and design choices according to the specifications of their client, the senior artists, or their own ideas and dreams. This can involve a lot of discussion, especially if the shoes are to be exclusive, or one-of-a-kind creations. After making scale drawings, they make a pattern, and then oversee the creation of a prototype, or sample shoe. They then oversee the shoe's mass production, ensuring that everything is going according to plan.

Shoes play major roles in North American society. We wear them for support during sports, we wear them for dancing and for stylish nights on the town. We wear them for status, we wear them for comfort, we wear them for safety. Shoes are everywhere, and everyone owns at least one pair. Shoe designers are responsible for caring for our feet, as they design functional, interesting shoes for all of life's occasions.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a shoe designer? Shoe designers are interested in feet, footwear, and the different uses for shoes. They are creative thinkers, who love to follow through on ideas, no matter how many obstacles come up in the way. Shoe designers should have some business sense, and be practical, as well as imaginative. They need steady hands and good eyesight. Shoe designers are innovative thinkers who are willing to try new things. They enjoy a challenge, and like learning new things. Shoe designers should like drawing, enjoy computers, and be interested in technology.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about shoe designs
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Create patterns for prototype
  • Prepare prototype or supervise prototype's creation
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • They typical day for a shoe designer involves meeting with clients or senior staff, creating sketches and drawing up plans for the shoe. They may be involved in only the design stage, or they may be involved in the whole creation process. Shoe designers may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and materials, and ancient leather-working traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Shoe designers work alone or in small teams in their own design studios, or they work for large shoe companies, in studios and design offices belonging to their employer. When working for themselves, shoe designers can set their own hours, and may find themselves hard at work in the evenings, on weekends, or in the middle of the night when they are trying to establish themselves, complete a piece before a deadline, or to accommodate clients.
  • Shoe designers who also make shoes will be exposed to some noisy machinery, glues, solvents, dyes, and machinery.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Shoe designers can open a firm of their own that creates and distributes their own designs. They can become leather workers, and create any number of items for sale. They may use their training and become architects, market analysts, industrial design instructors, fashion designers, jewelry artists, or interior designers. They may choose to take their talent to journalism, graphic design, or animation, or work for historical societies and museums recreating artifacts for display and public programs. They can also write books and publish articles about life in the world of fashion.

  Educational Paths  
Shoe designers need a background in art, science, and technology. They must be able to draw, make models, understand mechanics, have an eye for beauty and style, and be deft with computer-aided design programs. This means shoe designers can come from a number of educational programs. Some shoe manufacturing and design companies even offer training programs.

They may complete bachelor's degrees in industrial design, fine art, engineering, architecture, graphic design, or computer programming. There are also college courses in most of these areas to supplement the degree. For example, they might take some computer courses at a college if their university degree was in visual art.

Aspiring shoe designers may also consider taking some courses in merchandising, business administration, and marketing, especially if they plan on going into business on their own.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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