The Amazing Art & Futuristic Sneaker Designs of Chris Darmon
When you realize that almost everything has been done before, you have to start to merge and distort ideas.
Chris Darmon is an exceptional sneaker designer but calling him a sneaker designer is like calling Kanye West a sneaker designer. I label them “artists” but what they are really problem solvers who look at stale ideas, products and mediums and then find a way to inject new life into them. For Darmon, that might be sneakers, or the boxes the sneakers come in or the layout of the store that sells them. I recently had a chat with Darmon about his breathtaking portfolio, the inspirations for the work and his creative process – in particular the process of designing a shoe.
How long have you been designing shoes?
Technically, I’ve been into basketball and shoe design my entire life – only recently have I started to design digital customs. Myself and my buddy Angelo rendered the Lebron 12 in 3D from only two images a few days after they were released (or leaked) online. I designed about 20+ colorways and have had about 30,000 views on my website since for just that project.
No one really does what we do (3D render shoe models), so it was fun to start “something new” and see what we can come up with. We’ve done a ton of shoes and custom colorways and shoeboxes since than. It’s no secret I’m also trying to start a shoebox business next (more on that below).
What are your biggest creative influences?
Music is above and beyond my greatest inspiration. I stay up til about 2 or 3am each night working on design, renders and my portfolio blasting rap, R&B, and electronic music. I couldn’t design anything without music in the background as it gets me in a “zone” and radiates from there. Nature is my second biggest inspiration.
What is your creative process when creating a shoe?
When you realize that almost everything has been done before, you have to start to merge and distort ideas. I heavily look at what is out there, what is trending, and innovative materials and processes like 3D printing. It’s the golden age for shoe design, the models and materials coming out now will influence shoe design for the next 50+ years. I have a pinterest board I secretly rely on with over 1,000 of my favorite shoe designs. I try to focus on clean colorways that are timeless yet innovative.
Name your 3 favorite design elements you have seen on a sneaker?
1.) 3D printed molding or carbon fiber pieces – big fan of the Kobe 9’s, which are based on boxing shoes.
2.) Geometric molding. I’m a big fan of Alejandro Ingelmo
3.) Fancy lace locks
What piece of art are you most proud of creating?
I’ve been fortunate to work for brands like Nike, Adidas and Microsoft, so I like to think I have seen the top of the design mountain… However I am most proud of my personal passion projects like NBA “Diamond Dunks” and Matchbox Packaging.
I’ve been working with Mindstyle in China for nearly a year now on my first NBA licensed product. NBA “Diamond Dunks” was created purely out of frustration… I started to design packaging and shoeboxes in my spare time. As things progressed and after months of rejection – I started to design my own products, my own colorways and now my own shoes. I think my concept Nike “Cyberdunks” are a masterpiece, I’d love to see them made.
Diamond Dunks is supposed to pre-release at this year’s Comic Con and officially at the start of the next NBA season.
What’s next for you?
I’d love to continue to evolve as an industrial designer or become an actual shoe designer. However, the thing I am most excited about is working with former NBA player Jonathan Bender on a shoebox business. One day I came across an article on Sports Illustrated and read this amazing story about how he became an inventor after his career in the NBA came to an end. I tweeted him one day with an idea, he called me and we’ve been working together for nearly a year now trying to evolve a shoebox and packaging business.
The things we are working on aren’t necessarily designed for the current market, we plan to build an empire from the ground up with ideas and designs focused on the future and retail markets. It’s always disheartening to me that “sneakerheads” and athletes aren’t associated with intellectual ideas or businesses or even art. The term “dumb jock” comes to mind, I am here to prove that you can be into basketball, into art, into design, into business and merge your passion projects into something truly inspiring.
Working and talking with guys like Jonathan Bender is something I never thought I would ever do and I plan to make the most of it.
This interview was sponsored by the #MakeYourOwnWow sneaker design contest for Dwyane Wade & Li-Ning. The winner of the best shoe design will get to party with Dwyane Wade at the launch party for his custom shoe.
Click here for more information.