2009 Western District Student Merit Winner (Arizona State University)
As a high school student, Lavion Gibson competed on the football and lacrosse fields. He ran track, too. He was, by all counts, an athlete. He was also a self-described “geek.” “I had an interest in design from an early age,” Gibson said. “I was always sketching and doodling and trying to figure out how things work.”
This winner of IDSA’s 2009 Western District Student Merit Award decided early on what kind of professional life he wanted to pursue. As a high school junior, Gibson leveraged an opportunity provided by his high school to obtain a design internship.
Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix has a program where seniors can spend half their time in the classroom and the other half working for a local business. After cold-calling several surprised design firms, Gibson found a place at Duo Product Design. “People were shocked that an 18-year-old knew what he wanted to do,” Gibson said. “Not all of them had space for me, but they were all encouraging whether they had available positions or not.”
Before he enrolled at Arizona State University (ASU), Gibson accumulated a deep understanding of the product development process. “I did a lot of listening at Duo,” he reported. “The designers there would discuss product specifics with engineers that we worked with in Taiwan, while tweaking and reviewing 3D CAD files. It taught me to realistically approach design and my creativity, to know I always have to produce a design that can be manufactured and used.”
Following brief flirtations in a number of product design areas Gibson’s passion guided him toward footwear design. “I’ve always been mesmerized by the energy that fills a performance shoe,” he said. “There’s a fine science that involves balancing aesthetic choices and performance capabilities.”
Gibson began to master that science as he completed his sophomore year shoe project and interned at K-Swiss. “When I started, I was really just drawing shoes for fun,” he said. “I didn’t understand flex points, my proportions were off and I didn’t really know what was feasible. After I finished the shoe project and the internship, I had gained an understanding of how shoes are constructed.”
The K-Swiss experience also exposed Gibson to possible opportunities to impact the footwear industry. “We produce a number of samples before coming to a final design,” he said. “I would like to find a more sustainable approach. How can we move away from physical samples? I want to help improve the processes and bring longevity and durability to every part of my work: the materials, the processes and the end product, too.”
Gibson is currently developing that initiative—and doing some more listening—as a footwear designer for Teva footwear in Santa Barbara. He joins the Teva team in re-inventing and breathing new life into the future product line. “It’s important for young designers to have open ears,” he offered. “If you’re open to taking criticism and learning the process, it may help you eliminate the early mistakes that others have made.
Lavion Gibson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.