a career in materials…


Some of us start our creative journey in design sourcing textiles + knits for an apparel brand,learning how to intertact with vendors,build a color plan + print palette in which we never imagine there will be an opportunity through the next door. So what is the secret to expand on our material knowledge in similar creative industries such as footwear + automotive + product + graphic +I Design and product design.

Footwear designers can showcase his or her talent through color or graphic design while waiting for that door to open and many materials designers transition from automotive to footwear seamlessly.But why is the footwear industry still considered the stepchild to spring off to like industrys when they are all governed by inspiration? 

I had this conversation with Nick Huber,Design Director for Mesh01

We discussed the challenges in the footwear design community where designers sell them selves short by not embracing the material side of their design role.Just as you have two bookends holding in the sum of books on a shelf, sketching + rendering without validating your design in a material + color story only reads as 1 chapter in one book on a shelf with many yet to read.

So I attempt to lay out some nuances in material roles,and hope that you know there are many roads that lead to design based on your intuition + expertise + knowledge the type of career you carve out for yourself in CMF (Color+Materials+Finishes)

Material Designer ~ middle brain function requires that this person be creative as well as diplomatic.MD’s work closely within the creative process, inspiring and being inspired through a tactile world.Influencing,trending and innovating through CMF + building material + color palettes,designing materials and having a strong vendor network.You must be able to multitask all of this and wrap it in a compelling story.An invaluable MD is all of the below without the salary…really.

Material Specialist +Sourcing ~ Most specialists work closer to validating materials after the fact.Meaning there is a clear line drawn between the creative and sourcing side.A deep knowledge of materials and how they function and having strong network of vendors will set you apart.Textile designers can be strong as specialist as they come from fiber and yarn education.

Material Consultant ~ Before you run you must learn to walk… MC support MD but can take on more of operational role, tracking samples,costing,validating materials for design palettes or providing substitutions with a quick turnaround.There are times creatives just don’t want to capture or interpret trends,they support the creative and just don’t care if that blue is more blueberry than plum,they just want it to color match.

Color Designer ~ Orange is not Poppy and White is not Dove,however black can be obsidian or abyss depending on the saturation and temperature. The best CD’s are footwear designers waiting in the wings.

Some brands narrow CD to only specify color in CAD programs but if you are hired in a CD role you can show your range very easiely by networking… all the time.

Lastly,most brands define and refine all these roles based on need and budget.

And yes theres the world of Trending don’t get me started…


Nick Huber(nick.huber@mesh01.com


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