To mark what has been a successful opening year for FootJoy's innovative D.N.A. style, three of the main contributors to the design of the shoe: Daren Weddle, principal designer at Acushnet, spoke about the upper, while Jon Bacon, design director at FootJoy, and Rob Bento, product designer at Acushnet, discussed the creation of the outsole.
Daren Weddle, principal designer Acushnet Company, on the upper
1. When you set about designing the upper of D.N.A. what was the brief given to you and what key thoughts did you keep in mind when it came to creating prototypes?
The D.N.A. had an intial brief, set forth by our product marketing team, which was based on discussions about how to ‘slot’ in a new Wow Factor.
2. What were the most difficult aspects of creating the D.N.A. upper?
Based on feedback that our product team had gathered on our earlier product line, we had to decide what to move and/or remove for certain styles to allow space for this new ‘Luxury ride’ product. The difficulties/challenges arose around which direction to take – simplicity or something more visually technical, with all the bells and whistles. The appearance of the upper at first glance is what we challenged ourselves with. We wanted this to be a step above all the rest.
3. Were there any other prototype styles considered and, if so, why were they discounted?
The DNA was not an overnight concept. The design team had several discussions on overall aesthetic breakdown. Because we had a head-start with the bottom unit to this product, we discussed what would match up with the elegance and performance attributes. This strong teamwork allowed us to sample several detailed prototypes. Having several different prototypes allowed us to learn and play off one another's ideas to create the ultimate piece of equipment. I still do not feel as if any of our initial concepts were discounted, but used as building blocks to create a successful idea.
4. How important in creating an upper is finding the perfect balance of fashion versus function? Are they mutually exclusive?
The DNA holds a very high level of performance, as well as being a fashion-driven product. These two match in harmony for this particular project. This was the overall goal. We have been very successful in creating the most performance-driven product in the industry, and to bring this high standard into the equation opens new doors to our end user.
5. The perforations or detailing of the leather is a unique feature of D.N.A. At which stage was it determined that this would feature and what were the reasons for this?
All details seen in the DNA have been carefully thought out and conceptualized through several rounds of prototypes. The overall process from start to finish includes discussions on trend relevance as to what may pertain to the world of product design. One major influence in the particular detailing of the micro-perfs and the embossing to the leathers was auto shows/exhibits. Upon viewing many high-end luxury automobiles, we assessed several similar traits which consisted of the finest leathers holding slight embossing patterns, highlighted by a contrasting colour-pop or fine detail which gave the overall product a ‘signature look’. As seen in our DNA, this clean elegant upper is versatile to several different colour-ways, yet still holds a ‘less is More’ dynamic.
Jon Bacon, design director at FootJoy, and Rob Bento, product designer at Acushnet, on the sole
1. What were the most difficult aspects of creating a stable, lightweight and low profile outsole while also making sure it's functional?
JB: Function means correct fit and performance features. We always make sure we have the basic performance features covered. A flex zone in forefoot is always a must and a very important performance feature for us. With a lower profile sole we also want to make sure we keep and maintain a cushion feature....
RB: To add on Jon's point, the thinner TPU outsole allowed us to push the cleats/receptacles to the outer edge of the sole....thus providing a stable platform.
2. The cleat at the front of the shoe is something we haven’t seen before. Why was it determined that this would be one of the standout features of D.N.A.?
RB: We work closely with Dr. Joseph Hamill, (Proffesor, Department of Kinesiology, Director of Biomechanics Laboratory) of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has provided us with the optimal flex and cleat locations for the golf swing. The ideal location of the front cleat is right about where you would find your big toe. Usually, you would see this cleat in the centre of the toe box. However, our goal was to design/develop an outsole that provided maximum performance, thus the location of toe cleat you see in the DNA outsole.
3. Can the design of the outsole be credited to one person in particular or is it a team effort? If it is a team effort, how many people were involved and how do they each play their part?
JB: All our design uppers and outsoles are collectively a team effort. The designer starts the initial concepts and then works with the CAD designer or Developer to bring the designs to the finish line. This process insures we’re getting the best possible products. The more eyes and experts involved, the better the shoe comes out at the end.
RB: I'm involved with more of the engineering of the outsole. So, I'm in constant communication with Jon when/if/where there are any conflicts between the design provided and manufacturability. The goal is to hold to the original design as much as possible that is manufacturing friendly.
4. Can you briefly describe the steps taken in the R&D of the D.N.A. outsole?
JB: The steps taken for the DNA sole where very typical to all the projects we approach. The team had been trend shopping soccer cleats, which this industry has taken some great advances in technology on upper and soles. We wanted to take some of these feature and add them into a new sole. We talked about doing a low-profile type sole with TPU on the bottom plate, which at the time we didn't have in the line. We also wanted to add a cushioned performance footbed for maximum fit and feel.
RB: To add to Jon's point. We are always researching trends, whether it be colour, materials, fashion, treatments, etc.. This tells us what is likely to happen before it happens so that we can take advantage and design to these potential opportunities.
5. How do the outsole and upper engineers stay in contact throughout the R&D process to ensure that both parts of the shoe marry up in terms of style and performance?
JB: Through the process the designers, CAD designers and developers stay in constant contact with the Taiwan Engineers and Taiwan FootJoy Product Development team. This helps both sides learn from each other and solve and issues that arise. This part of the process is the most important aspect of the developing shoes , uppers and soles.
RB: Each outsole/midsole and upper is engineered to a specific last that is predetermined before the design stage. This ensures us that the upper units will marry up perfectly to the bottom unit.
To check out all of the latest FootJoy D.N.A. styles and all of the latest releases from the No.1 shoe in golf, log-on to footjoy.co.uk