Under Amour is continuing to build their basketball lineup for the 13-14 season, adding the UA Micro G Anatomix Spawn to the collection. We first publically spotted the Spawn earlier this year on the feet of the 100 best high school players at a NBPA event, prior to that Sneaker Report was able to get an in-depth look at the design process with UA designer Ross Klein.
Interview by Calvy Click / @clickmasterflex
SR: Let’s talk UA Basketball and what to expect.
Ross Klein: The whole company, every category, is focused on building the perfect fit. Dave and his team is experimenting with different processes to bring a perfect fit to a running shoe, so what we did as a basketball team was try to evaluate all areas of the foot that were very important to focus on.
It’s not any different from what every other company does, except we’re focusing on this at a microscopic level, investigating how the foot interacts with the shoe and how the shoe should, in turn, encapsulate the foot. We don’t want to start building extraneous pieces onto shoes, we just want to build what’s right.
Have you always focused on this type of footwear design?
In terms of the foot, I come from a product design background. I got out of school 12 years ago and went to Phelps Electronics and focused on a lot of LED’s that were in cars, so extremely minute types of electronics. I then went into an architecture firm, my minor, then got into shoes at New Balance in advanced products, a little bit with Nike in the Kitchen, and then Timex as the design leader for time pieces. So all across the board, I think all these different areas of focus, whether they’re big or small scale, comes into footwear because it’s hard and soft pieces.
We looked at this foot as a team. The bone is the strongest, muscle is an area that is more abrasive, and then you have blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments so what we found is you have all these different densities and materials, different elasticity and different strengths that work together. Da Vinci said the foot is the biggest masterpieces of the human body as it has the most concentrated areas of difference than any other part of the body. What’s cool about working in footwear industry is we can address some of those finer points.
So to start, we take the human foot and make it into a vacuum form to build around it. This helps us understand the overall fit of the foot. So in other shoes you’ll see huge breaks, a lot of dead space in the shoe. In any shoes you own, you may be able to find some dead space. Since we focus on making a shoe for the highest-level basketball athlete, we don’t want any dead space in the shoe. So to make this shoe fit everyone, we scan a variety of people’s feet and generate a blue last, paying careful attention to every single radius.
We focus a lot of time on building a show with a different approach than other companies. You can see that we really focus on construction as a lot of different parts and zones are inner working with each other.
How do your sketches play into the final design of the shoe?
I never draw something and say I’m completely finished, because we can keep generating from it. I take the different approach with sketching, just like we do with the foot. I always focus on the pattern and never on the aesthetic first. You’re kind of screwed if you just draw some lines. But if you think about how these pieces interact as one piece of material, then you’re set. Utilizing the idea of eliminating waste is a very intriguing way of using one piece of material.
Should we expect more of this type of layering across the board?
I won’t tell you too much about the next generation, but it takes on a whole new process. Process is my biggest thing. So if we can change the process and the instruction, you can focus on the performance and the breakdown. It’s going to be quite different. With other companies, generation is just a minor tweak, but for me it’s a big difference. It brings in consumers on another level, rather than just giving them the same thing.
Over the past 5 years that you’ve been at UA Basketball, what has been the turning point?
I would say any huge company always starts with performance, but Under Armour is about innovation. Not only from across the street in the innovation lab, but inline as well. It works differently than any different company. When I was at New Balance it was an advanced concept to give to inline, just as Nike it's kitchen gives it to inline. All ideas start with an innovative idea here at Under Armour.