How important are tangible iterations in your approach to design?
Sometimes it’s essential just to wrap my head around it. For a shoe there’s a lot of, like, “Does it look good from the top down,” or “What does this feel like?” but sometimes it’s more to convince myself I like something. We work so digitally now but it’s hard for me to get excited about a digital image.
To build a model, I get really into that process and sometimes, along the way, you get different ideas than when you’re all the way zoomed into a [digital] 3D model. You’re so focused on connecting this to that, you might not see an opportunity. I think switching back and forth between different modes of making and thinking about stuff is really important, at least for me in the process of iteration and narrowing in on something.
I just love making stuff. I like to be able to hold it and say, “Do I like this? What do I hate?” and move on from there. Maybe it’s because of the background I have in architecture, we make models, or maybe I studied architecture because I like to make models. I don’t know. That’s just how I work.
Few signature skate shoes have stuck around for a long time, but those that have—like the Vans Half Cab or the Nike SB Janoski—have had a huge appeal outside of skating too. Did you set out to design a shoe that would have a broader appeal? Or were you focused on making the shoe you wanted?
To me, the nice thing is that those two goals overlap a lot. I wanted to make what I wanted to make, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t set out to dream of this thing being timeless or existing ten-plus years from now. But skateboarding has gone through a lot of fashion phases and changes. Everyone has footage from ten-or-so years back where you’re like, “I wore my pants like that? What was I thinking?” The same can be extended to footwear.
Something classic has that capacity where it’s just enough—but not too much—in the right places; simple but has enough detail where it feels really considered and can stand out. In terms of design, for me, that’s a good ethos anyway: keep pulling stuff away until you feel like you find the right spot.
Your “Garden of Skateable Fruits”—a skatepark and sculpture hybrid—in Montclair, New Jersey opened last month. Was there a main notion which informed the overall design?
It’s a real challenge to design these skateable objects and sculptures. I don’t want to make a skatepark but also you can’t author a skate spot. If there’s an intention of skating [to the design], it’s not a natural spot. So what’s exciting for me or a skater who thinks, “This looks and feels a little different”? It’s less concerned with flow. It’s more isolated, interesting objects that you can link together in whichever way you want. It’s cool because when you see people skating there you see that actualized by the paths people are taking.