A bit purist, Visual Hierarchy is an interesting principle of selecting some elements on a design in order of importance to maximise its visual quality.
It helps to develop a design logic and define and focus on perfecting key elements to ensure that a product is not only visually balanced and draws your attention, but also creates a sequence to which the design can reveal and expresses itself in the most logical (although maybe not always the best) way the longer you look at it.
In car design Visual Hierarchy is divided into 1st, 2nd and 3rd “Reads”. They are the 3 main areas of a car that should capture your interest, or curiosity first, but they also make up what should be the best visual expression of the car and its character.
For Footwear Design the rule for Visual Hierarchy is also a design logic, but a bit different and maybe more commercially motivated. I would say that its more immersive, but it also complements well the “3 Reads” theory for Car Design.
Visual Hierarchy in Footwear Design is divided into 3 parts; 10, 1, 10, or 30, 3, 30 depending if you count in metric, or imperial measuring units.
To capture your attention, draw you closer and speak to you (should I say seduce) a footwear design should have :-
1. One feature that is easily noticeable from 10 metres away, say from across a room.
2. A second interesting element should reveal itself as you move closer to 1 metre away, maybe as you stand in front of the shelf.
3. And lastly a third interesting detail that should draw you even closer as you pick the shoe off the shelf and examine it closely from 10 centimetres, or 30 inches.
But after more than 20 years these rules probably need a little updating, for buying shoes online for example and even the traditional logic of Hierarchy could be revised. Maybe in a way that is counterintuitive?
Based off the 5 Levels of Creativity in Design, from A Transactional Approach to Creativity and its Implications for Education by Irving A. Taylor HERE.
I have been thinking for a while that a pyramid is an interesting way to show these levels. To help visualise and define what height you would like to aim for and in some sense also the level of difficulty and risk you face. Traditionally the further up you go, the fewer designs have been created, but could it also due to a not well enough defined goal, an unvisualised approach and lack of planning?
With Microsoft’s recent bid to buy Activision Blizzard, it seems clearer that gaming will be a key component of the Metaverse, especially since Open World video games already are a small version of how the Metaverse is being portrayed. It also makes the term “video game” sound a little outdated.
Although these are just trailers, you can really get a better sense of the breath taking vision and potential for the gaming Metaverse. The Open World format with its broad horizons, bright blue skies and fantastic creatures has the potential to be massively seductive, especially as an easy escape and to explore beyond the rigid urban settings that many of us live in.
But I wonder how will footwear design fit and compete with the endless amount of new objects and fantastic characters that will also be for sale in the Metaverse?
Digital footwear in the Metaverse? The scale of the Metaverse, or its projected scale never ceases to surprise me. Like a Googol, the numbers appear to be racing towards the unfathomable.
Another digital gold rush, it seems more people are heading Virtual instead of West, making the trek with their fingers over keyboard paved trails. I wonder what parallels if any there could be with not just the California Gold Rush, but also closer to home with the dot.com gold rush?
To lay the groundwork for a Metaverse platform, Microsoft (who also owns Minecraft) is buying Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion.
To get a sense of one of the reasons for such a high price, if its true that Microsoft has sold about 171 Million X-Boxes since 2001, Activision Blizzard currently has 400 Million monthly active players, so you can begin to imagine the potential and growth that Microsoft foresees.
In the context of footwear that could be projected into gaming and/or the Metaverse, if the biggest footwear companies currently sell 65 Million pairs of shoes each month, how many pairs could they sell each month as digital products?
And then, while digging in the search I came across a book titled “How to Spend $75 Billion To Make The World A Better Place”.
Could it be that in a virtual reality, special effects will make digital footwear obsolete?
If you think about it, the amount of space that physical footwear can cover your body is limited to a relatively small part for a series practical reasons. Firstly it should be easy and quick to put on and take off, second it should remain light and third relatively inexpensive.
However in a virtual world without those limitations and where “form will not need to follow function”, digital footwear and clothes will easily be merged into a single aesthetic expression. For example since digital footwear will no longer need to be designed within physical parameters, it will no longer need to have a sole, or a collar which could mean that it will transition into a digital expression of bodywear, or even a body without clothes. The question is what kind of body? A human body, or something more abstract and novel? We will be able to design such interesting and bold Avatars, that footwear design may not stand out as much as it does today under a plain pair of jeans, or training pants.
Here is an interesting animation from a few years ago by Adobe, which I think suggests well some of the diversity of Avatars that could exist in the Metaverse.
It will be interesting how footwear, or sports equipment companies make the transition in VR should footwear aesthetic become less interesting and relevant? And will they need to compete with video game companies and the film industry as well as each other? Will some digital footwear designers transition to character design and how crowded will the designer pool become?
Below are some interesting examples of how I think people/avatars could look in the Metaverse by Universal Everything and notice how none include footwear.
Think about it, why will we need digital clothes, or shoes in a world where we can look like anything, from a dragon to a pile of moving rocks? Where our Avatar will be our clothes.
It may be that eventually people will prefer to appear clothes-less (or naked), since a clothes will have no practical purpose and their aesthetic could appear quite old fashioned, maybe even holding people back from advancing in their journey towards their digital self-realisation, or more intense sensations. Who has seen the Black Mirror episode of “Striking Vipers” and how relevant will athletic footwear design be in such a world?
Of course it could also be that in VR, like mainstream physical fashion, that people will generally continue to prefer more relatable and familiar forms of aesthetic and personal expression instead, like retro sneakers for example, maybe oversized just to be a little different (same, same, but different :))).
Another factor will probably be poly count and maybe some platforms will allow more more detailed designs for more advanced, complex, or bigger aesthetics.
Nonetheless below are some more, interesting early and/or far fetched examples of how I think Avatars could look in the Metaverse by Universal Everything from 2011 to 2020…and notice how none include footwear 🙂
What sensory experiences could make a virtual world more compelling?
What would a Haptic suit mean for footwear design, both physical and digital, in appearance and function?
It’s curious how in many ways the multiple layers, structural elements and colour pops of these Haptic gloves already look similar to the design language of many new sneaker designs (click to enlarge).
Both the digital and the haptic innovations will give new meaning to footwear performance technology in the future.
Not my Nike design, but can you see the similarities? Right on point, awesome!
But what is Roblox? What is RAP (Recent Average Price)? How will Nikeland on Roblox be used and by who?
Currently Roblox is the world’s most valuable video game company in the world with more that 27 Million published games. More than half of US children have a Roblox account and half of those are younger than 13 years old, at the same time Roblox is also viewed as the blueprint for the next generation of virtual economies where users can trade virtual assets from digital shoes to digital houses and furniture. So its easy to see why sports footwear an equipment companies need to enter.
But how will the sporting goods business evolve if people prefer to spend time in a digital world instead of a physical world? E-Sports, E-Disco/Raves, E-Dating, or E-Trading, the range of new digital footwear designs and experiences will be virtually limitless. But maybe the sport aesthetic expression may be harder to develop if video game players will be free to play E-Sports like FIFA football video game as a lizard avatar, or Super Mario? And sports companies will probably also need to compete with more specialised and experienced businesses like video game and movie industry animation companies.
All this takes me back an old post I wrote years ago to explain why I was so drawn to documenting and blogging about Mexican Huarache footwear titled “A Future Without Sports, Without Sneakers, Without Huaraches?” (click on the title). What place in our culture will sports footwear have in 50 years? And if your Avatar will be a fantastic alien creature, how will any digital footwear design still be relevant?
But back to the near future, what incentives will be created to keep people on any virtual, or augmented platform the longest? Certainly if going out to bars, clubs and sporting events continues to be inconvenient because of the usual pandemic restrictions, or even the concern of becoming infected, its easy to imagine how a more life like social media could be more appealing than before.
And how will our data be used and what new data can be collected as we become more connected? Maybe even our Brain Activity? How symmetrical will our data exchanges be in a Web3 world?
…and since when did video games become trading? Can online trading replace sport? Will investing in digital shoe designs replace buying physical footwear? How much will digital life experience replace organic life experience? Simple things, but that are inherently human and natural, like meeting friends in a park, or at the beach, or pool, playing a game of football, or tennis, or going for a walk in the woods. It’s not difficult to imagine since we already experience a lot of our life through digital interfaces, instead of physically.
This is the first video that came up searching for “RAP on Roblox”, its almost 3 years old and has over 1m views. Its also by the “RICHEST robloxian”…allegedly.
Vans has also launched Vans World on Roblox.
Below is what it looks like and some of the things you can do. More info on Venture Beat.
This post has maybe less to do with Footwear than the title suggests, but I hope the video below can be a useful introduction to the Metaverse with which footwear is increasingly becoming aligned and connected. Speaking in the video is also Maye Musk the mother of Elon.
We have all heard of Bitcoin, Blockchain, NFT’s, 5G, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, the Internet, Zoom and Social Media. The Metaverse from what I understand would be the ultimate digital ecosystem and merge all the digital technologies together, including Digital Footwear.
It all seems like a new and fascinating world that is being developed, with infinite fantastic experiences to chose and new flourishing economies, but at the same time it also seems a bit dehumanising to live inside a more simplistic video game world. And will we continue to value the natural world as we increasingly lose our awareness and interaction with it?
And as footwear designers will we eventually face the choice between encouraging a less physically active indoor culture, disconnected to the physical world and/or losing our commercial relevance?
The photo below from Vogue Czechoslovakia (interesting that Vogue would chose a country that no longer exists) shows Maye Musk wearing Digital Clothes and Footwear, possibly purchased online and downloaded from Wanna Kicks.
The Fermi Paradox named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, asks “if we assume that highly intelligent beings exist, why have they not visited us (from Wikipedia)?”. If I am not mistaken, on of the reasons proposed by Swedish-born philosopher Nick Bostrom is that “assumptions about the general development or behaviour of intelligent species are flawed and that we see no signs of intelligence elsewhere in the universe because intelligent alien life develops an “increasing disinterest” in their outside world”.
…OK stay with me :)))) This could be the main reason for why Digital Footwear may become the Future of Footwear.
Author Stephen Webb also wrote that “some advanced beings may have divested themselves of physical form, creating massive artificial virtual environments, transferring themselves into these environments through mind uploading, and existing totally within virtual worlds, ignoring the external physical universe”.
And many years ago Julian Assange also mentioned in 2017 at a London Festival (at about minute 21) that mind uploading was already being developed in Silicon Valley, but maybe more out of spite than an impartial informed observer.
“I know from our sources deep inside those Silicon Valley institutions, they genuinely believe that they are going to produce artificial intelligences that are so powerful, relatively soon, that people will have their brains digitized, uploaded on these artificial intelligences, and live forever in a simulation, therefore will have eternal life,”
Stephen Webb continued: “Possibly any sufficiently advanced society will develop highly engaging media and entertainment well before the capacity for advanced space travel, with the rate of appeal of these social contrivances being destined, because of their inherent reduced complexity, to overtake any desire for complex, expensive endeavors such as space exploration and communication”. Which despite the recent space tourism and plans to colonise mars, seems pretty much what has happened in the last 100 years as media technology has exponentially grown.
“Once any sufficiently advanced civilization becomes able to master its environment, and most of its physical needs are met through technology, various “social and entertainment technologies”, including virtual reality, are postulated to become the primary drivers and motivations of that civilization”….what do you all think?
It’s not so hard to imagine that if due to continued health scares like Covid, bars and clubs will be replaced by virtual meeting spaces. And thus, maybe gradually, as a consequence of the lockdowns, home office and our digitally directed cellphone app life, with increasingly reduced physical contact, it could be that the future of footwear is digital. And who knows maybe even walk us into the Simulation Theory?
Every now and then a technology can completely change how products are made used and look, this fundamental change is also known as a “paradigm shift”. Digital Technology has helped create paradigm shifts in almost every corner of modern human life (while the changes that Digital Technology has brought to wildlife have maybe been less inspiring).
But if Digital Technology has profoundly changed music, video, retail and banking, how will it change Footwear? Also consider how 5G could boost the use and reach of Digital Technology.
How many people will it take to design, develop, produce and distribute 10,000-100,000 pairs of just one Digital Footwear style, compared to a Physical design? Consider that with purely digital footwear designed for VR, you also won’t need to to fit and wear test physical samples, although it may need to be wear tested in a digital environment for other types of functionality for example how it’s aesthetic will hold up in a dynamic digital environment. In 2013, I wrote an interesting post about Motion Sculpture if you would like to get a better idea of what I mean. But I digress…
Think how disruptive digital technology has been from #C-#V, to digital images and video, often providing impressive results at the press of a button and imagine how much more it will develop and how much time and money is currently being invested in it.
And along with Digital Footwear, also what I call “Shell Footwear” (usually injection molded, or 3D printed Mono Material), seems also to be perfectly aligned to follow in the footsteps of all the other disruptive digital products that are commonly available today.
Could one day a designer by himself create a footwear design that can be easily 3D Printed and sold to thousands of social media followers? Will digital product platforms become the new fashion brands, becoming giants like Sound Cloud and YouTube? And what will this mean for retail, factory work and industry as we know it?
What started as digital designs created for internal design presentations are quickly developing into commercial AR/VR products and also 3D Printed Designs for commercial use.
In fact Sustainability goes way beyond chemical pollution and CO2 emissions. Beyond plastic and petrol. And I’m very excited to share this with you today.
For example should Governments, Companies and Individuals also focus on Social Sustainability goals and what would they be specifically for each group?
Sustainability is about finding harmony and balance in life in every way. I would say its a mindset and a culture. Could it be that if we don’t also concern ourselves with Social and Economical Sustainability, that we won’t be able to achieve Ecological Sustainability?
Considering the material and social consequences of our actions in these fast changing times is becoming increasingly important and ways/tools that will help us to make the transition also.
“Circles of Sustainability is a method for understanding and assessing sustainability, and for managing projects directed towards socially sustainable outcomes. It is intended to handle ‘seemingly intractable problems’ such as outlined in sustainable development debates. The method is mostly used for cities and urban settlements”. – Via Wikipedia
But I think this model can also be applied companies that make and sell products like footwear and can be extended to the suppliers that they partner with.
For a Footwear Company the Circle of Sustainability model could start to look something like this below. I tried to adapt the Circle of Sustainability above from Wikipedia and I’m sure there is much more that can be added, but it seems like a good start.
One area that I think is missing from the above model is Automation and how it can be sustainable in the social/professional context. I can imagine how footwear production will become increasingly automated and I see many 3D digital and printed models online that align themselves well with the current injected footwear mass production model.
Could “Shell” footwear be the Future (and a topic for a future post)? Made from a mono material for easy processing and especially recycling (and no disassembly) could almost certainly also be an advantage to Sustainability. But what will such a shift mean for Footwear Professionals in creation/development and especially production positions?
Also I couldn’t think of the equivalent for Politics, which I will need to mull over a bit…