Blake Baresh, a former credit analyst from Irvine, California, following the contemporary trend in using online design software, made a brave decision to leave his job in order to take on a job as an artist, painting custom shoe designs onto sneakers. Barash has always had an interest in art, and was enthusiastic about painting and woodwork.
He made the career change after seeing an advertisement on Craigslist which said that Toms, a shoe company, was looking for artists who would be willing to travel to events around the company and paint custom designs on canvas shoes.
After spending a year painting canvas shoes for Toms, he decided to break away from the company and open his own shop dedicated to custom painted shoes. The company, called B Street Shoes, sells its products via Etsy, and has been performing incredibly well.
Barash went solo in 2011, and B Street Shoes grossed $60,000 in its first year of trading. What sets the company apart from other shoe painters is that every design is completely unique, and that customers have the option of making their own specific requests. A customer can have as much or as little input as they like into the design of the shoes that they buy.
Custom Sneaker Design
The business is still thriving, several years on, and shows exactly how much potential custom products have. Community based e-commerce sites for artisan al product makers are a powerful channel that allows consumers to communicate with brand owners and get the products they want
, from smaller retailers that they trust.
Barash explained that most of his customers come to him through word of mouth. People find out about his products via Facebook and Instagram. When Barash posts a picture of his latest she designs on his social media profile, customers tag their friends and then that’s where the next order comes from. This viral growth would not have been possible even as recently as 20 years ago.
In an earlier post at other blogs we looked at common issues facing product designers. Finding the balance between giving customers the option to get the custom product that they want and ensuring that they get it in a timely fashion is not always easy. Online custom design tools are OK for basic products, but when the customer wants something more unusual, it is harder to meet their needs.
A Framework for Custom Design
Designers that offer high-end custom products are moving towards a focused framework for custom product design that takes into account the needs of the customer, the specifications as they are expressed, and the value of the product from a supplier-focused point of view. They take the stance that most consumers are looking for the best balance between price and performance, and use a multi-attribute approach to negotiating the design, collaborating with customers along the way.
One of the best examples of this kind of practice is booklet printing companies that offer a proofing and checking service as a part of the printing process. They provide basic guidance on things like colors, margins and page layouts, and then allow users to design their own products. When the user submits the product for printing, the company will look at it to check basic things such as:
• Whether print will bleed across the margins
• Whether ink will bleed in images
• Whether the images provided for printing are an appropriate resolution for the size they are to be printed at
• The orientation of the pages – will the pages show in the right order when the user reads the book?
The printers do not take into account spelling, punctuation or grammar. Nor do they consider the subjective aspects of design, but they do take the trouble to ensure that users get a printed booklet that is functionally correct, and that any flaws were in “what the customer asked for” rather than caused by a failure to understand how the printing process works.
This service is becoming increasingly common, and is making the world of custom product design far more accessible to end users.