Noah Sussman | Interview with a Sports designer (Adidas performance, UVEX sports)

Noah Sussman Sports Product designer portrait

Noah Sussman and his Ipad Pencil

Hello Design Sketchers !!

Today is my great pleasure to introduce you Noah Sussman, designer for UVEX Sports in Germany. I met Noah when both of us used to work at Adidas Headquarter at Herzo. I was in the footwear department, and Noah in the accessory department.

Once a year Adidas organise a huge design project where they temporary create new teams. The idea is to mix the profile and departments so we could create new emulsion and better think out of the box. This is how I had the chance to share a creative project with Noah.

I remember how much Noah encouraged me when I was at Adidas. I am very happy he accepted to share his enthusiasm and experience with us !

Can you tell us about you ? 

I’m a California trained designer-I went through the product design program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and then six years later through the car design program at Art Center College in Los Angeles.  My mom is a surgeon, and my dad a craftsman who built custom furniture.  The precision of surgery, with the emotional form finding in furniture building combined into my passion for the design of emotional products.  Having lived most of my life in California, I love Mexican food and sushi…two of the things I miss most now that I’m living and working in Germany.
I’m a movie junkie-especially science fiction films, where money is poured into visualizing what the world could look like in five, ten, or one hundred years.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer sketch footear Adidas performance football

Footwear design sketch on Ipad Pro

You moved to Germany from USA to join Adidas Performance. Can you tell us more about it ?

Adidas hired me, and brought me over to Germany from California in 2007.  When I asked the hiring manager what he liked best in my portfolio, he said it was the series of ballpoint pen sketches of soccer-playing robots I had drawn.  While in the Performance team I did tons of concept drawing-trying to push actual designs, as well as design processes in the team.  I am proud to say I won a patent for a suspension-system I designed for bags and backpacks.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Uvex sports sketching

Sketches for UVEX Sports with a ball point pen

How did you get into the sport design industry ?

 My first job out of product design school was as a model-maker.  It was dusty, and slow…and I never did any drawing!   Luckily my first design job was working at Fox Motorcross in Morgan Hill California.  There I supported the head designer by creating tech-packs for his wild glove designs.  This was the best way to learn about design-from a creative master.  I pushed the tech-pack techniques the team had been using-adding 3D views of complicated details, and putting real love into my drawings.  This improved sampling from the factories-my boss was pleased, and slowly gave me more and more design projects.  Voila, I was designing Motorcross gloves for the top brand in the world.
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Noah Sussman Sports Product designer interior helmet support Uvex sports Noah is trying a mock up of the helmet (see above picture)

What do you like the most at being a designer ?

Using at least half of my work day to create beautiful illustrations of designs, ideas, and technical details is like being in heaven.  Drawing is my hobby-something I have done my entire life.  Now I am being paid primarily to create drawings and images for my projects and my team.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Uvex sports helmet prototype

Always a great moment to see your sketches becoming real.

What is your most memorable moment of your career ?

 I think landing my current job was the most amazing thing I can remember.  It was my first job interview with a CEO, and I was nervous as heck.  I prepared intensively, as I knew the CEO’s time is very very valuable.  I was prepared to present my work in thirty seconds, three minutes, or three hours if necessary.  She complimented me after our twenty minute talk, and offered me a job on the spot-and even sent the Human Resources head out of the meeting room to go and draw up my contract!
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Footwear boost sketching

Warming up session with boot sketching !

Can you share with us more about the role of sketching in your profession ? Why is it so important ?

I am the only product designer in the team, and therefore the only one who can create emotional drawings.  As our products are technically very complex, with expensive tooling, and complicated marketing stories to tell, visualizing potential product concepts helps everyone on the team to align on a project.  Drawings cost relatively little to create, and help the team make decisions about go-no-go problems on a project or brand initiative.  Will we cut a $500,000.00 tool?  Sketches can help the team-sales, development, and marketing by giving them a clearer idea of what we can expect as an end result.  Beautiful drawings can also help build momentum and excitement within the team across the different disciplines.
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Protective Helmet proposal

What are your tools and software you use ?

I have two approaches to drawing and sketching-one when I’m pretty clear on what I want my design to look like, and another for when I’m pretty blank, and need to “find” something interesting to integrate into my design.
When I have a pretty clear idea in my head about what I want to create, I begin in Photoshop (using a Wacom Cintiq or my iPad Pro) with a basis photo or image of a product with similar proportions to the product brief-this ensures that my proportions are very accurate, even though I’m working very quickly.  I will do photoshop over these reference photos, using a messy painting style approach which I learned from a classmate at Art Center, Sasha Selapinov.
My second approach, where I’m basically blank and need to search-I use a ballpoint pen, and lots of loud music and caffeine.  Headphones are key for this approach as well.  I use Spotify to spontaneously create playlists of fresh new, unexpected music.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Uvex sports sketching helmet

Sketching some research for UVEX Sports

Can you send us a picture of your workstation or favorite tools ?

My favorite tool is a ballpoint pen-preferably a cheap one which I have “borrowed” from someone.  The best are bic pens, something with a dry gel-ink cartridge which warms up as I draw.  I like these cheap ballpoint pens because they can draw a super-light line, and also super black.  They are also easy to find anywhere you might be.  I’ll then photo these ballpoint sketches with my iPad Pro and pile on the color and contrast to help tell my story.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer desk ipad pro sketching footwear

Noah’s favourite office with a strong coffee

Do you think anybody can learn how to sketch ? 

If you want to learn to sketch, you can learn to sketch.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer sketch wall at design office helmet Uvex sports

Wall of Design research – An amazing way to gather a team

Where do you take your inspiration for your sport projects ?

Most of my inspiration lately comes from the science-fiction concept art I see.  I’m fascinated with technology, and robots.  On the other hand, nature not only inspires me, it helps bring me back into the moment where I can see challenges with fresh eyes.
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Uvex sports

Product fitting

Do you have any website, books  to recommend ?

As a designer you have to respect the “GIGO Rule”-this means “Garbage In Garbage Out Rule”…if you put nothing into your head, or fill your head with crap, like entertainment only, or distraction only (like social media), you will see these things in your design!  Research a new technology online-use the power of hot-linking, don’t get hooked on one website.  Read a book about a hero or a villain, or about an entrepreneur-anything you might be curious about.
sussman_goggles

Sketches and rendering

What Tips would you give to an aspiring designer ?

Learn to love to learn.  The internet allow you to learn a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g you want…don’t waste this resource learning more about the Kardashians!
Noah Sussman Sports Product designer Uvex helmet rendering

Rendering of the helmet

Do you have any drawing you did when you was a kid ?

 The only drawings I did when I was a kid were submarines, aircraft, and oil-drilling platforms…
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Noah sketching on the Wacom Cintiq 27 HD

Can you send us a picture of your working space ?

My most creative working space at the moment is any cafe where there is strong coffee…
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Sketching on a Sketchbook

Where can we see more about your work ?

You can see some informal samples of my work here: sussmandesigns.blogspot.com
Obviously I can’t show my current work sketches, they are for our products in 2018 and beyond!  You can see some current products here on my behance:
SPECIAL EVENT REMINDER 😀
I invite you to our first Design Sketchbook Show!
Where you will learn how to sketch faster, better! Making eye-catching sketches, but also greater design without looking for perfection. You can get your invitation at this link: https://business.facebook.com/events/1184847524963001/ On Wednesday 1st February, connect at www.facebook.com/thedesignsketchbook at your Time zone to attend our first DESIGN SKETCHING FACEBOOK LIVE!Los Angeles: 7am
New York: 10am
Brazil: 1pm
London: 3pm
France: 4pm
New Delhi: 8.30pm
Singapore: 11pm
Japan: Midnight!
You can already prepare your questions. I will be happy to help you! See you next week ! 😀

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About The Author

Chou-Tac

If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my career, I believe that they can also help you to learn, and help you with your projects. Whether Design is a job or a hobby it doesn’t matter, so long as you do what is important to you.

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