Let Me Walk You Through It

I have always had a thing for shoes, especially the vintage style sneakers of the 80’s and the 90’s. Shoes are always the first thing I notice about a person, and I swear I remember a person’s shoes better than I remember their name. I’m not sure what usually draws me to shoes, but I really enjoy how each shoe is unique from brand to brand, yet they all seem to carry similar stylings. They are all unique yet unified.

For this reason, I decided it would be a good idea to create an icon set of 12 icons featuring some of my favorite old school shoes. However, the end product you see featured above was not exactly easy to accomplish. Allow me to walk you through my process.

Coming to an Idea:

Coming up with an idea was the first hurdle I had to overcome for this project. I began thinking of ideas before the project was formally introduced to me, and yet I was still struggling to find an idea a few days before I was supposed to have initial sketches ready. I wrote down list after list of brainstorm ideas, I wrote down everything that came to mind that was even remotely doable, and eventually I decided on one of my first thoughts. Isn’t that how it usually goes? The items on my list were good, but I got the most excited when I thought about my shoe idea. I knew it wouldn’t be the easiest route to go, and that made me want to try it even more.

Ok, Shoes. Now What?

After I came to the conclusion that, yes, I am going to do shoes, I started sketching. I had the idea that I wanted to do high top shoes and their low top counterparts, so i began sketching multiple different types of shoes that fit into my initial idea. I tried to sketch from different angles, and find common details between different brands of shoes. The thought occurred to me to sketch the different treads of the shoes I was creating as well. Treads are usually unique to each brand and each shoe, and I figured this would be a good way to make my icon set unique, while still being cohesive and unified. After my initial sketches, I looked at some reference images to get a feel for which particular shoes I wanted to re-create, and did a final sketch of what I thought my end product should look like (more or less). The following image is what I came up with.  

Take it to Illustrator:

After I did some sketching and finalized my ideas, I took my thoughts to illustrator. For this project, I mostly used the pen tool, the shape maker tool, and the eyedropper tool. I started with a reference image, and drew out the shape of the shoe and the sole. I then used the shape maker tool to create separate shapes, and then added key details to each shoe using the pen and shape tools. I noticed that although they were different brands, many of the shoes featured similar stitching and accents. I made sure to include these pieces to create unity among the icons. After a few hours of slow progress, I finally had a draft of six icons, my first 2 lines of shoes. Here is the result:

Resolving Problems:

I was pretty happy with the way things were going at this point. I had a pretty solid 6 icons, and I was getting much more proficient with the tools I was using in Illustrator. After getting some critique from a few fresh eyes, I dove back in to my next 6 icons, and started to think about colors. The black and white, to me, wasn’t interesting enough and made my icons seem a little bland. I wanted a color scheme that fit my end goal, and wasn’t too boring. The result was my almost-final draft:

At this point, I liked my colors, I liked the way my icons were looking, but I could see some disconnect in the set. I noticed that the middle two rows were cohesive, while the first and fourth were a little out of place with coloring. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the coloring on the bottom row, and I could see some inconsistencies on certain shoes that were driving me nuts. Little things like the eyelets for the shoelaces, the thickness of a stroke, and the smoothness of some lines were making my icons seem a little off. So I went in again, though at this point I was ready to have my end result. Here’s my second take a final draft:

Finally, I was happy with what I was looking at. I felt like the colors matched more, the set as a whole was working cohesively as I planned, and the shoes actually looked like the shoes I had in mind. So, after some final tweaking of little things here and there, I decided to call it a day and declare my project as complete.

The End

So there you have it. A set of 12 cohesive icons unified by theme and color. These icons were a blast to make. I spent countless hours staring at the smallest of inconsistencies, and I learned a lot about Adobe Illustrator as well as my personal design preferences and style. I feel much more comfortable with my creative process, and I’m no longer afraid of the pen tool. Overall, I would call that a success.


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