Shining The Spotlight interviews designers, and seeks to shed light onto the design process of performance sneakers. Through the interviews, we hope readers will grow in knowledge about sneaker design and be more informed about the stories and people behind the shoes.
The first focus of this project is Ryan Holler, Sr. Footwear Designer at AND1. He’s the lead designer of the Attack 2.0, a recent flagship performance model released by AND1. I was able to arrange an email interview where he discussed the design process of the Attack 2.0 that went down in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Ryan works in coordination with 4 teammates headquartered in New York City.
The Attack 2.0, from the beginning, was planned to feature the same midsole/outsole tooling as its predecessor, the Attack 1.0. In addition to ensuring performance continuity, reusing the outsole tooling eliminates the cost of development and production of a new sole, which is typically the most expensive part of the shoe.
So, the project basically consisted of designing a new upper. “The Attack 1 had great ride, traction, and outsole durability, so designing the 2 was simply a matter of moving the model forward with better upper fit and a faster look”, Holler writes.
With the whole design of the Attack 2.0 focused on the upper, Holler found inspiration in fighter jets. The Attack 1.0 was inspired by ‘big cat’ predators, and featured feline characteristics, which early on, inspired the shoe’s name—“Attack”. Keeping with the definition of the word, Holler gave it a twist. “Cats attack on the ground, so for the 2, I started with an attack-from-the-air concept, and based my sketches on images of fighter jets—most notably the F-35, and few fantasy jet drawings”.
The aircraft inspiration is most noticeable in the straight-line triangulation and cock-pit like structure elements wrapping over the instep and vamp. Early samples even featured an embroidered pattern shaped like the F-35’s exhaust on the heel counter. Holler and the design team came to agree the embroidery was a bit too literal, and decided instead to use that space to explore other material textures.
Initially, the project was going to be a low-top and a mid-top. “I started with the mid, and first few rounds of sketches failed to find love among teammates,” Holler writes. “It wasn’t until I started sketching both mids and lows, and leaning harder into the aircraft inspiration, that we found momentum”. The first pullovers were built in each height. The low had good first-glance appeal, but the mid was going to require a lot of work. That’s when the suggestion was made, by the design director Lars Astrom, to focus only on the low-top, based on the popularity of lows among AND1 customers and pro athletes. The team all agreed. Few small adjustments were made, but, aesthetically, the final product is about 95% the same as the first pullover.
The fighter-jet-inspired design and sock-like entry combine well to achieve the goals of better fit and faster look. Those things, complimented by a sleek ghillie lacing system for lockdown and upgraded foam around the heel and achilles make the Attack 2.0 a nice step forward from the Attack 1.0.
With the final question on how the design process helped him evolve as a designer, Ryan Holler writes,
“Every project is at least a micro evolution for the designer. Learning is integral to this job. That includes learning (sometimes re-learning) unchanging principles, as well as new things influenced by developing material technologies and changing trends. All of those things naturally interest me, and add a lot of fun to this job.
We’ve grown to work more as a team in recent years. From a personal perspective, there are times where sacrificing part of my vision might feel like a loss, but in the big picture, those are good times to learn the strengths of others and see them grow and evolve as well. That helps build a more experienced and cohesive team, and makes trust a lot easier. On a personal level, I reckon that counts as evolution as well.”
With the NBA season recently restarted, NBA champion and AND1 athlete, Fred VanVleet is hitting the court each night in the Attack 2.0. Fred’s Toronto Raptors teammate, Terence Davis, and Phoenix Suns’ Jevon Carter also wears the Attack 2.0. After launching a successful silhouette liked by the outdoor basketball community and worn on the NBA stage, it will be exciting to see what the future holds for Ryan Holler and the AND1 design team.