Class designs shoes for international organization

While many students are able to choose their final projects for the semester, one class took the opportunity to create a project that would benefit more than just grades.

Every semester in Professor Haven Lin-Kirk’s Fine Arts 302 Design III class, students take on a final project they select as a class. This semester, Tom Buchte, who graduated May 15 with a degree in business administration, came up with the idea of creating shoes.

“At first I suggested that we buy and redo a car, but there were just too many logistical problems. Then, I suggested that we design shoes,” Buchte said. “Shoes would allow all the students to have individual projects within a larger collaborative effort.”

The class of 20 was divided into five groups to brainstorm ideas for the final project. After Buchte and his group’s proposition for shoes was approved by the class, the project was put into action. 

Jonathan Igner, a senior majoring in business administration and a member of Buchte’s group, contacted Vans, who then donated 22 pairs of white slip-on canvas shoes to the project.

“I asked if we could get the shoes at a decreased price,” Igner said. “Over the weekend, Jonathan Chow, another student in our group, came up with the idea of giving the shoes to charity after they were finished. So, I shot the Vans contact an e-mail and we ended up getting them for free.”

The finished Vans designed by the class were donated to Soles4Souls, an organization that accepts donations of shoes or money and distributes shoes to those in need in various countries. The charity — which began as a relief effort after the 2004 Asian tsunami — has distributed nearly two million pairs of shoes worldwide.

After the class decided to work with Soles4Souls, students had to complete the project using a budget of $1,000 from Roski. While each student designed a shoe, the class was broken down into different groups that organized various aspects of the project — including advertising, marketing and communication.

Chandler Chow, a senior majoring in fine arts, led the group that created a 56-page booklet of the shoes designed.

“We wanted to represent each student and designer,” Chow said. “Each person had a page where we displayed their shoe and asked them some questions, like what their motivation was. With the book we really wanted to focus on the design aspect of the project.”

The shoes were displayed in the USC Fisher Museum of Art and auctioned on eBay, where 13 pairs of shoes were sold beginning at $50 per pair. The class plans to sell the remaining nine pairs of shoes it designed on eBay at reduced prices.

Overall, students said they learned from the experience.

“It was the biggest job I have worked on,” Chow said. “And the biggest design project many in our class have ever worked on.”