back in 2009 I began pestering friends and random strangers. I would walk up to them with a pen and a sheet of paper asking that they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did get close, some actually nailed it perfectly, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s bicycle.
Little I knew this is actually a test that psychologists use to demonstrate how our brain sometimes tricks us into thinking we know something even though we don’t.
I collected hundreds of drawings, building up a collection that I think is very precious. There is an incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings. A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes and this is why I look at this collection in such awe.
In early 2016 I eventually decided it was my turn to take part in this project.
I decided my job was going to be presenting the potential and the beauty inside these sketches. I selected those that I found most interesting and genuine and diverse, then rendered them as if they were real. I became the executor of these two minute projects by people who were mainly non-designers and confirmed my suspicion: everyone, regardless his age and job, can come up with extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.
Wisely, then, Under Armour's new Architechs don't try to 3-D print the whole shoe. Instead, their new strength trainers—which are designed to keep athletes stable as they lift weights in the gym—are mostly assembled conventionally, except for the 3-D-printed midsoles.
Even so, Under Armour admits it just isn't ready to mass-manufacture these: Each of the 96 pairs of Architechs have been assembled at UA's Baltimore innovation lab. And the midsoles aren't being individually customized either. Under Armour, which is selling the Architechs for $300 a pair, wouldn't even tell me if they were making a profit on the Architechs. "It's definitely a different cost structure," says Under Armour's VP of training footwear, Chris Lindgren.
The Architechs, then, are essentially a statement shoe. "We're trying to dip our toe in the water, not in level of commitment to the technology, but to see how consumers react, and what we can learn from them," Lindgren says. "There are other ways to make shoes like this, including very expensive molding, but we think 3-D printing is going to fundamentally change the manufacturing model."