Designing Just for Kicks

When I was a kid, the cool kicks were PF Flyers. These little gems were recognized by their white rubber toe cap (or blue if you were the coolest) and a red dot on the lower back of the sneaker. They had canvas uppers (fire engine red or blueberry blue) and rubber soles. They were the then-modern equivalent of the British plimsoles, athletic shoes designed for beachwear back in the 1800s.

So fast forwarding to present day, I looked for the PF Flyer company online, and lo and behold, they are still around. The red dots are long gone, replaced by a green PF logo in relief on the back, and in a daring move, the company has added black and white canvas and leather to their line-up. PF Flyers now look a lot like Converse sneakers, but without all the crazy colors.

So what gives a sneaker company its staying power in the ever-changing world of fashion? In a word: designers. Designers are the innovators, the dreamers, the ones who keep the  brand fresh in the public’s hunt for the coolest “kicks.” Any designer who aims to do this should know where the term “kicks” comes from. There are lots of opinions on the etymology, but it is generally thought kicks came out of hobo slang, passed into jazz lingo, made it into African American slang and from there into street-style language.

One of the coolest things I have gotten to do in my career is to pick the brains of recruiters looking for these innovators, these sneaker designers. As a result, I was surprised to hear that recruiters find designers in many different areas, not just in fashion design. Recruiters from Nike, K-Swiss, Reebok and Adidas told me some pretty surprising stuff. They liked candidates with a design background, including automotive designers. Wha’??? Yes, automotive designers can become sneaker designers. The CAD skills needed for both types of designs are similar. (Maybe that is why Skechers Women’s bump toe DeLites look suspiciously like a Smart Car or a Nissan Juke, yes?)

Chemists, materials and textiles designers also need apply. Athletic shoe companies are always looking for the next materials that will make their kicks lighter, more flexible, cooler. People who study human anatomy, how the body is put together, and people who study human body mechanics, or how the body moves, are also in demand. No one will wear the kicks you design if they are not comfortable, because, well, they’re kicks, right? They are supposed to be stylish and comfortable.

Lastly, the fashionistas and extreme sports gurus can find a career niche in designing kicks. If you know street-style, how extreme sports work, can use CAD and can easily render designs, this is the career for you. It is extremely fast-paced, can be stressful, but very rewarding when you see your kicks on the street or on the runway, worn by hipsters and adventurers alike.

Can you get rich coming up with the next “gotta have it” design? Some people do. In general, salaries for sneaker design are all over the place. They depend on the geographic location, type of sneaker (athletic, extreme sports, fashion, formal wear, etc.) and the company. For example, reports that designers at K-Swiss made about $70K in 2010. As recently as of 2015 a Designer II at Nike could make about $101K per year with bonuses pushing that figure up to $113K according to

And the one question that design recruiters always, always ask: What were your favorite pair of sneakers and why? You now know mine. Enjoy the 4th in whatever kicks you are wearing!

10 Reasons Why This Job Isn’t For You

You have been looking online for that perfect job and now you think you finally found it. You have the education and skills required. It looks like there is enough meat to the job to make it interesting, and there’s room to learn new skills. What’s not to like? You may just find that out if you are invited into the company for an interview. Here are 10 signs telling you when to pass on a job:

1. When the interviewer is late for the interview. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. However, the demeanor of the interviewer can tell you a lot. Does he apologize profusely or act like lateness is par for the course? If you as the candidate are not allowed to be late, then neither is the interviewer.

2. Your potential supervisor is not at the interview or you are only allowed a short time with her. Another red flag is an interview on your itinerary with only the supervisor and then showing up to the interview to find the supervisor’s supervisor is there as well. Are they afraid she will say something wrong?

3. Try for an interview in the supervisor’s office. One time I interviewed with a supervisor whose desk was piled an impressive foot high with papers and books (it was – I measured it while waiting for him). The mess might have been impressive, but the hairy chest the guy sported because he had left his shirt buttons undone from his collar to his belt was not. There’s creative messy and then there’s I’m-blaming-you-when-I-can’t-find-your-report messy. And the hairy chest thing was just icky.

4. Group interviews where members interrupt each other and cannot agree on priorities are always a fun bet. If they cannot agree on goals and objectives in an interview, you can bet they cannot agree in department meetings either. You are not going to be able to do this so-called perfect job if all members cannot arrive at group consensus.

5. The interviewer complains about companies or experiences on your resume. I have had these interesting interview experiences: higher education interviewers complain about industry recruiting experience because recruiters are too “mercenary” and don’t have the students’ best interest at heart. Recruiters complain about higher education experience because it is “too ivory tower,” not real world enough, and the work pace in higher ed is too slow. If this happens, you can elaborate how these experiences will help you do the new job. However, it is bad form for the interviewer to complain instead of inquiring how these experiences relate to the job at hand.

6. Keep a close eye on your interviewer’s behavior. Does he go from calm to red-faced rage in .2 seconds? Do employees avoid eye contact with him and quake in his presence? If the interviewer is comfortable showing this behavior in front of you in an interview, you may be his next emotional punching bag. Definitely take a pass on this one.

7. Group interviews where the group acts very bored, tired or disinterested are a sign that these people do not work well as a team. Granted, group interviews can be time consuming and boring, but they should not only be interviewing you, but conveying that this is a great place in which to work.

8. The interviewer purposely asks an illegal question and carefully watches you as you respond. As novice interviewer, I occasionally asked the wrong question. However, questions about protected status such as religion, veteran status or parent status are illegal, and an interviewer should not be asking these questions. If you get asked an illegal question, you do have the right to refuse to answer it.

9. Group interviews can be difficult to schedule, as everyone is busy and time to do them is in short supply. However, if the organizer repeatedly asks you, the candidate, to hold open dates because he cannot get the group together, take a pass. I’ve seen groups refuse to agree on meeting dates when they either do not support the organizer or do not have buy-in on the candidates. This type of passive-aggressive protest behavior is not something you want to get involved in.

10. Most interviewers will ask you if you have questions, and yes, you should have some as this shows your interest in the job and knowledge of the field. However, there are some interviewers who will evade answering your more pointed questions or have already decided you are not the right candidate and will barely answer your questions at all. If you ask questions about the company or local area, and the response is a brochure thrown across the desk, the interviewer isn’t doing either her company or you a service. You can find better.

Potential vs Obsolescence





A friend posted a link to a NY Times article on what happens to pianos that are past their prime (pianos last about 80 years) or to those which people simply do not want or have room for. Some of these pianos are still playable, look and sound decent, yet they are shoved off trucks, smashing into piles of other discarded pianos.

It makes me sad to see the article’s video because these smashed pianos not only represent the potential of those who could learn to play them but also the potential and the realized skill of the people who made them. The piano used to be a highly prized and revered possession. It was a status symbol, if not of direct wealth, at least of having the ability to provide some symbol of culture in the home. It was where I learned self-discipline and the triumph of skill mastery. Piano building is now a lost artform, its products smashed and relegated to dumps.

Technology brings about a whole panoply of obsolescence. These discarded pianos are much like the people who are desperately searching for jobs in this terrible economy. Their skills are growing stale and obsolete because there are fewer jobs in which to use them. They are not needed right now. And going back to school for more training is not always an option. What does this comparison say about how we value people who are not given the chance to contribute in a meaningful way to society?

Want a Job? Hand Over Your Facebook Passwords. Now.


It is all over the Internet that if you are looking for a job, you’d better clean up your social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter. However, a recent article on describes how people being interviewed for a job were asked to either log onto their Facebook accounts or hand over the passwords so that the interviewer could check their Facebook pages. Duh. The accounts are password protected for a reason. Say, privacy, perhaps? Or free speech?

Now, there is nothing on my Facebook page that would prevent me from getting a job, but seriously? Isn’t this an invasion of privacy? Aren’t there laws in place to prevent this kind of spying? Apparently not. Just like the laws being considered to prevent employers from eliminating you from consideration for a job if you are not employed, some states are looking to ban employers from demanding your social media passwords. Good for them.

And it doesn’t stop at the interview process. There are also companies who are demanding access to their employees’ social media pages. There are so many ways this could be abused. I’ve had supervisors who I never would have wanted to have access to friends’ and family’s pics/info. These companies assume that their hiring and supervising managers are going to use the info found on these pages in a mature manner that protects the company. I seriously doubt that. Would you want some guy ogling your daughter’s party pics on Facebook? Or a would-be employer to have access to pics of your oh-so-attractive cousin? How about access to your game-playing history or where you go for drinks?

It’s bad enough that people are so gullible as to assume that recruiters/managers/HR people friending them are actually friends. If you don’t check out who is friending you first, it’s your own fault if these people wind up on your friend list with access to your info. You should check your privacy settings often. They seem to get set back to “Public” every time Facebook makes a big change to your pages. And you shouldn’t be playing on your social media pages during work time. That should be enough. You shouldn’t have to forfeit a chance at a job because employers feel they have a right to your private info. They don’t. Period.

Can a Bracelet Put America Back to Work?

The Indivisible Bracelet

So today the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, held an open conference call. Know what it was about? Putting Americans back to work. Shoot, I wish I would have known earlier. I would have been on that call. I do agree — small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Will people donate 5 bucks that goes to Opportunity Finance Networks?  They might if they know that this organization provides seed funding for new small businesses. They also may donate if they are among the 99% of very pissed off people. Big government is too slow to help. It can’t even get us a real health insurance plan — for everyone. Because everyone deserves health insurance, whether they have a job or not.

It is ridiculous. I’ve talked to medical professionals who are trying to keep the unemployed and underemployed healthy while they try to find jobs or  better jobs. These are people like myself who have a Master’s degree and are clueless on how to get health insurance help because they have never had to ask for help before. Free clinics like the one I had to go to last week for help with bronchitis are overwhelmed. If health insurance is going to continue to be linked to jobs, then we need to get people back to work. In good jobs that provide access to USABLE health insurance. That’s the only way overall health costs in the U.S. are going to come down.

So will people donate for a bracelet? Maybe so. However, that does not let “The Administration” off the hook. C’mon Washington. Step on it. The people who gave you your jobs need a little help. Now. Your incentive: People in the “real” work world who do not make good on their promises get fired. Just sayin’…

Pick Your Poison… Uh, I Mean Platform


The "Other" Platform


Time was when I used Microsoft for work and Mac for entertainment. MS-DOS? Yup, I knew the commands. Windows up to Windows XP? Sure, I could figure it out. They all were stable and they all worked fine. Until Windows Vista. That was it for me. I was working in a PC-only office at the time. The boss had Windows Vista, the rest of us Windows XP. Nothing ever worked after that.

I left. I took a few weeks, and moved my personal stuff from a PC to a Mac. I went to the Mac store and did all of the free workshops. Just like that I switched. It was easy. Everything works.

However, when it comes to looking for in-house copywriting work, I am finding I still need to know both platforms. Oh, crap. I really hate Windows. The Office package takes forever to load, forever to find what I need. I get updates every week that there are more security patches to download. Word and Excel are way more complicated than they have to be. Yes, I know you have the larger share of the platform market. But you could be a little more user-friendly, Microsoft.

This is a case of knowing that I have to acquire skills that I do not want or like to use. I’ll suck it up, but I’m not happy about it. Microsoft avoidance has become a way of life. Where are the free workshops, Microsoft?