design for manufacturing

This intensive one-week course aims to teach professional footwear designers and developers the latest footwear manufacturing technologies, for both upper and bottom, and opens their minds on how to creatively apply this knowledge in the design process. Not just for single shoes, but also to create smarter range plans.


The gap between footwear design as it is taught at design academies and the reality of modern footwear manufacturing has been been growing steadily. Most design courses take place in the Western hemisphere, yet footwear production mostly happens on the other side of the world. Many designers do not get to visit factories and even if they do, their visits are usually limited to the factories their company works with. 


During their education designers often learn how to make shoes by hand and this is a great skill to have, yet factories are focusing on eliminating human labour, developing constructions that are highly automated, using new techniques like knitting and high frequency welding, for instance. The way outsoles are moulded is extremely difficult to replicate by hand, so we find many designers struggling with creating soles that can actually be made within the desired price range, since they have never been exposed to that manufacturing technology.


Not only does this cause delay and frustration in the design and manufacturing process, it also results in designs that are unnecessarily wasteful and expensive. If designers understand the manufacturing process well, they are able to apply it creatively, using constructions and materials that they might not have thought of otherwise, yet that result in designs which cause much less waste in the factory and are also easier and cheaper to manufacture. 


During this course you will experience each part of the footwear manufacturing process - for both sneakers and high-heeled shoes - and will be challenged to apply that  knowledge using creative design systems that start from manufacturing. You can work on designs and range plans of the company you work for, or you can choose to use examples we provide to practice your 'design for manufacturing' skills. Since classes are focused on teaching a new way of 'manufacturing thinking', they are also suitable for people in footwear development that do not need to make the actual designs, but do need to have manufacturing knowledge, such as product managers and developers.


Classes take place in Dongguan, China at our Footwearists office and we will visit many factories in the region, which is known as the most advanced manufacturing area in Asia.



course schedule*:



Monday morning: introduction to the base principles of footwear design for manufacturing. How can knowledge of manufacturing help you build better range plans and create better shoe designs that are more sustainable and cost-effective, yet also more creative.

Monday afternoon: visit to a last factory and related last design class


Tuesday morning: theory class on various ways to construct midsoles/outsoles, including knowledge about sole materials, construction technologies and related costs. 

Tuesday afternoon: visit to a direct injection + vulcanized outsole factory and mould shop 


Wednesday morning: visit to a high-heel and die-cut sole factory 

Wednesday afternoon: visit to a material market that sells soles and heels and related sole design class


Thursday morning: theory class on various methods to construct shoe uppers, including knowledge on materials (various kinds of textiles, synthetics and leather)

Thursday afternoon: visit to two shoe factories to experience several methods of upper construction, from low-tech to high-tech


Friday morning: looking at upper innovation: visiting a footwear knitting factory

Friday afternoon: design class on upper construction and class on how to apply manufacturing knowledge for smart range planning


*: the order of the schedule might change, this is not unusual because of the many company visits.  All subjects will certainly be covered though. 



course details:


Level: this is an intermediate level course for people who are already working in footwear design and development or have  graduated from a bachelor or master level shoe design course and want to increase their chances of landing a design or development position in the industry.

Location: Dongguan/Houjie area in Guangdong province (China) at various factories

Duration: One-week intensive

Class hours: 8:30 - 17:30 (with 90 minutes lunch break). Please note: this is an intensive course with a lot of excursions. Due to traffic issues we might arrive back at the classroom after dinner, having some classes in the evening if needed.

Maximum number of participants: 12

Teachers: David Hsieh + Nicoline van Enter

Certificate: participants will receive a certificate of participation upon completion of the course

Dates in 2018:

Monday, November 19 - Friday, November 23


Dates in 2019: 

Monday, January 7 - Friday, January 11


If you can not make it on those dates, yet you would like to come with a team, we can also provide this course for your company specifically and tailor it to your needs. Prices are on request, depending on the number of participants and on how much we need to change the program for you.

Price: €1750 (VAT not applicable). We require that at least 50% of this amount is paid upon registration. The other 50% needs to be paid before the course starts. Should a course not take place, because there are not enough participants, this amount will be refunded. This will be announced no later than a month before the course starts. Payments can be made via bank transfer, Transferwise or Paypal.


Included in the course price: transportation from the class location to factories and back, course books (see below). 

Not included in the course price: flight tickets, hotel accommodation, transportation to the class location, visa, breakfast, lunch and diner,  and any extra materials you want to buy for yourself if we visit a material market. 

Costs for travel and visa will vary depending on country of origin and preferences for accommodation can also differ per person. We are happy to advice on visa arrangements and will provide invitation letters and any other necessary documents, but we can not apply on your behalf. Unfortunately we will not be able to accept participants from countries that do not have regular visa regulations with China.


How to register: please send an email with your CV (LinkedIn profile) and short motivation to join this course to [email protected] We will reply within 24 hours. Your registration will be confirmed once the 50% downpayment has been received.

Course material:

We use two books in class:  "How Shoes are Made" and "Shoe Material Design Guide" by Sneakerfactory. These are included in the course price, you can preview them here. (You will receive the printed versions). You will also receive all presentations used in class and you can become a member of a dedicated LinkedIn group to share questions, knowledge and experience after the course.


Possible extras:

For participants that already have a professional product range and actually want to source manufacturing in China, we can offer sourcing services. Prices are upon request and extra time will need to be planned after the course to visit potential manufacturing partners. Email us for more info.