Friday, May 4, 2012

Christian Louboutin's Design Process vs. Kids'

What can you learn from Christian Louboutin's stilettos?


The new exhibit at the Design Museum shows Louboutin's work, design process and highlights his rise to success.


What I focused on is not the sexiness, fetishism and artistry of the work. I focused on Louboutin's design process. Which the Design Museum portrays through the exhibit. The big insight I want to show you, is clear when you compare his process, to that of kids.


This is Louboutin's Design Process crunched into a numbered list:


  1. Stimulate the senses: Louboutin starts sketching his pieces for a collection at a specific location. If he is working on the Fall/Winter collection, he retreats to a castle - in France I believe-  in a cold environment. If it's the Spring/Summer collection, he goes to his Chalet at the coast where it's hot. This stage is about immersing himself in circumstances that are relevant to your work.
  2. Free Drawing: He starts sketching freely. He takes everything that is on his mind and puts it on paper, in the form of drawings. The goal here, is to feel free, and produce what you wish to produce. As much as you can.
  3. Choose the One: From those drawings, Louboutin chooses the ones he thinks are fit for his collection. He improves on the drawings. Working on the style, the shape, the colors. etc.
  4. Technical Issues: The drawings are sent out to a team of people who will solve the technical issues. Basically, they take drawings and make them into shoes. A.K.A prototyping stage.
  5. Finalizing: When Louboutin receives the first prototype, he let's a model wear them and try them out. He then makes changes directly on the foot, with a scalpel, pens and other tools. And Voila!


You've got yourself a Christian Louboutin Shoe!

What I just described is not a guide to 'Success in Fashion Design'. Because Louboutin's success is largely built on other criteria, most have nothing to do with shoes. Actually, all have nothing to do with shoes. The real thing you can take away of this is a few words away.


Compare Louboutin's Design Process to that of Kids. Actualy, this TED talk gives you a glimpse on what children usually do when it comes to a design brief. Go ahead, watch from 2:00 till 4:00, it's just a few minutes. I'll wait for you.

Did you get it? Children do this:

  1. Intuitive Understanding: Children summon their cumulative wisdom... in seconds. And they don't do it counsciously . They just understand what the task is, and what they have to do. And this becomes their status quo. No need for big castles.
  2. Prototyping: Once there is understanding, even if it's minimal, work starts. Ideas quickly become reality. And several idea become reality.
  3. Iteration: All ideas are tested. When they fail, they change it. It's tested. Changed. Tested. Changed. Until you get something that works!
  4. Decoration: What do children do after something works? They decorate it. Stylise it. And make the world know that it's theirs!


What I just described to you is two types of Design Processes. Two different journeys to come up with an outcome. Don't focus on the result, focus on the process here. Because the process effect fundementally your outcome.

So when you are coming up with a logo or website or app or business plan, think of how you are designing your outcome. Because it matters if you are designing like a Kindergarten Graduate or a Louboutin.

Design matters. But Design Process matters more. It defines what you do. And hence, what you make.

Sherif Maktabi



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