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Online service Zazzle basically prints on anything. Want a one-off t-shirt or mug? They got it. It’s somewhat like Ponoko or Shapeways, you either generate your own design or choose from one of theirs, and then add-to-cart and the item is manufactured and gets mailed to you. Which is not necessarily all that interesting — countless services will provide that service.

Enter the printable, customizable shoe.

Zazzle offers design-your-own Keds, hi-tops, lo-tops or slip-ons with prices ranging from $50-65. Recently I had the opportunity to try out the process. The lo-tops I created (above) featured four printable surfaces (inside, outside, tongue, heel) each able to accommodate multiple graphics files, text, and background colors. You have your choice of eyelet, lace, rubber, stitching and lining color.

For my design I created the art in Photoshop, sizing the image to be about 100% of a size-11 shoe at 300dpi. I ended up creating three variants of my artwork, one for the outside, one for the inside, and the third for the tongue and heel. At one point I accidentally loaded two overlapping images onto the side, which confused me for a bit. However, I appreciated the flexibility — I may want to have several items overlapping.

The interface for loading your files and selecting options is uber intuitive, and if your browser crashes or you stop working on it, your design is waiting for you when you log back in. You could literally build your unique shoe in ten minutes and order a pair. (It takes a couple of weeks to manufacture and ship, so I haven’t got mine yet.)

My only negative impression of the process is that the shoes are printed and assembled in Asia. As someone trying to consume fewer overseas-manufactured products, I’d have preferred for the shoes to have been created in the US.

What do you think, readers? Is this product worthy of makers’ creativity? Does the freedom to design your own shoe outweigh any negative social and environmental effects of having it fedexed over from who-knows-where? Share your thoughts in comments.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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Comments

  1. Aaron Cael says:

    Pretty cool.

    Though how about taking it the next step and pairing Zazzle with shoe sales storefronts and/or the remaining skilled cobbler shops in various cities to print custom designs locally to be assembled close to point of sale. Move the raw materials in bulk, move the info in bulk, keep the finished products and the work local? Are we there yet?

    A little more on that posted here: http://titleofmagazine.com/2010/04/15/zazzle-keds-custom-shoes-3d-printer/

  2. robseth says:

    I couldn’t figure out how to remove the Keds logo. I wanted to replace it with a super hero logo. How were you able to do it? The fact that it’s not obvious already makes it a turn off for me.

  3. LeBomb says:

    http://www.solecreator.com

    much more fun…better value…and more range of shoe styles

  4. John Baichtal says:

    robseth, I don’t think you can remove the logo on the hi-tops. However, I bet you could either cut them off, or also there is a field in the form for a special request. Maybe they would assemble them without the circle?

  5. A Million in a Year says:

    I have also designed shoes, t-shirts, bags, cards, even postage stamps on my Zazzle Store (under the name of “Hartman ArtSource” if you want to check out the possibilities) and have had some decent sales. My 10 year old daughter has also designed some stuff there, and even the Band Boosters at my older daughters’ high school are looking at the possibility of having a Zazzle Store for their spirit items. It’s easy, fun and the products are good quality. I would recommend them. Check them out!

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