Inside Crocs- Men’s Footwear Design with Cheng Kue
Posted May 13, 2010on:
Late last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our men’s footwear designers. Meet Cheng Kue, Senior Footwear Designer for the Men’s product line:
This is a great opportunity for me since Crocs is a young company. To be able to come in and make a big difference in terms of design –not everything is set in stone. So, there are still a lot of processes and designs that I could come in and impact.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration is grounded in my product background. My inspiration comes from the automotive industry. You can look at automotives as a transportation design, and, I think, as footwear designers we are also considered transportation designers. Designing footwear has to go beyond functionality. Consumers have an emotional connection to their footwear. I look at creating new trends, and at other industries like transportation, furniture, architecture — basically any types of products in the market that are creating a buzz or have something more to give than just a fad.
In your opinion, how has technology advanced footwear design?
The great thing about technology is that it’s actually made life a lot easier. We have these great tools to be able to utilize and are able to create the products we visualized in our minds. From a process standpoint, a lot of the sketching still starts as a thumbnail sketch in a sketchbook. But, it evolves from that by using the Wacom Cintiq (a digital tablet). By using softwares such as Alias Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop and Illustrator you can really create something stunning and show off the overall product as opposed to doing everything with a marker. These tools bring it to life both rapidly and efficiently.
What are some common trends you see emerging in the footwear design industry?
Well, Crocs has created its own trend with molded footwear. Before Crocs ever got into the market, you seldom saw molded footwear. It was definitely more boutique. When Crocs came into the market, we came in with the Cayman/Classic and received acceptance from the consumer that wearing fully molded footwear was okay, to where it was in common use. I think we have started to combine many different types of common silhouettes that we would see in a regular shoe and made it ours and that’s truly the way to be successful.
As a footwear designer, you should take in everything you’ve learned as a product designer. You have to kind of rework it and think a little differently. It’s a special breed to be really successful in footwear. You can’t think of footwear as another PDA (personal digital assistant). I mean footwear doesn’t really work like that. It’ all about taking the old and creating the new and then coming to the table with something that is commercial and compelling. And I think, as designers, we’re always trying to create something compelling not just commercial. The opposite of that would be to create something completely commercial but never compelling without any point of view. As designers, we have to almost take ourselves out of our own “what would I wear” mode and design for what the target consumer would wear.
How do you measure success?
In footwear, people measure success in the amount of pairs you sell. But for me, my personal successes were not in the highest selling shoes but with the shoes that made the biggest impact, the biggest difference in the industry, and stood out to the consumer. You can design shoes that are very commercial, like I said, you’ll sell lots of them but you won’t make any kind of compelling story or your story won’t be heard.
Success, in my career, has always been about the products that push the limit of what goes on your foot. I think of footwear as more than just a shoe, it has to be something more than that if you really want to push the boundaries of what a shoe represents. I’ve had many successes in designing basketball and running shoes that have made both a statement and introduced unheard-of technology in the market.
At Crocs, I will feel successful when I see men truly accept wearing fully-molded products, or true Crocs products, and really stand behind them because of what it represents not because of what people tell them.