Daniel Cocking: Co-founder of Laceless Design

It feels like normal life was a lifetime ago. When we first went in to lockdown I knew I wouldn't get this sort of focussed time again to launch The Outcrowd platform, and I knew there was need for it was so many students sent home from university needing advice and support. It started as an idea many years ago, and It is an idea that really ignites me. The first week I set up the instagram I thought if I can help one person then its a job well done. I started reaching out to people on LinkedIn (you know the power of networking!) and I saw an article that caught my eye. It was written by Daniel Cocking who has worked at Adidas for many years, a brand I really admire. I messaged Daniel to ask about his experience and tell him about my platform, and found out we had a lot of synergies! Little did I know Daniel is the founder of the footwear platform @lacelessdesign. Which is a hugely successful community for footwear designers to showcase their work, as well as an agency. If lockdown has taught us anything, it is that community is more important than ever, showcasing and supporting talent in to the industry.

The reason I am such an advocate for networking is that sometimes you will talk to someone, and you can make connections, partner in work or mentor. And sometimes it just really inspires you. This was the case when I spoke to Daniel. Motivation is so important.

We love to hear the different paths people took to where they are now. What was your journey from university to your first job?

"It's my love hate relationship with my degree course that brought me to where I am now. I graduated from Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde University, uninspired by the typical engineering career, I sought out opportunities to use the course to fulfill my passion for sport and creativity. That lead me to seek out adidas for an internship opportunity to improve the performance of their Tennis range and from day 1 in the role, I was hooked by product creation. I then was desperate to learn more about how every detail of how product is created and spent time innovating and creating for adidas FUTURE team on the factory floor in china for 2 years. The curiosity and hard work paid off! The lightest ever football boot hit the market in 2015 and I had gained an exponential understanding of the creation process. In an effort to work closer with design, I moved to adidas HQ and continued driving creation for numerous performance categories and adidas originals. Through the moves I fell in love with people management, the opportunity to support people in reaching their potential is extremely rewarding. That same motivation birthed lacelessdesign, a community driven design blog to inspire, equip and connect designers. We've used this platform as a non profit to encourage a community approach to design because when we work with each other, creativity flows easily. We also use this platform to push the boundaries of how we create, and recently I've joined a brand that shares that same passion - Siksilk. As head of footwear for the brand, my role is to build an inspired team to create brilliant footwear in cutting edge ways and I am loving it."

Can you tell us more about the community of laceless and what this has provided for young designers and industry members alike? "I run lacelessdesign with a close friend of mine and hugely inspiring mind, Michael Kent. Together we are creating opportunities for designers to engage with each other and create brilliant ideas together, to be honest that runs itself. Mike and I try and push it further, we ask big questions to test out new ways of designers using the power of the collective. In 2018, we posed the question, what if we open sourced design? One brief, unleashed to the community. 1600 designs later we let the community decide what they wanted to see made, and the result was groundbreaking. In 2019, we posed an opposing question, what if we brought together the different skillsets of the design community at different stages of design from brainstorming to CAD creation, to Visualization, it was incredible. Stay tuned for the question we'll ask in the next weeks..."

Watch this space.... https://www.lacelessdesign.com/lacelesschallenge

How important do you think networking is to break into your industry of choice? 

"Networking is hugely important to break into your desired industry. Although use networking as an opportunity to build meaningful relationships, rather than a transactional connection. When you take that approach, its possible to have perseverance without being a pest, to update contacts without frustrating them. Some of my greatest opportunities have come out of my oldest and most meaningful connections, built over years.

LinkedIn is a great tool to open up meaningful conversations, so its worth investing time in presenting yourself well.  I was inspired recently when hiring for a role. I was responsible for the adidas boxing footwear range, and a designer approached me on linkedIn and without any reference to the role itself, had with humility and respect had prepared his thoughts on my range, the good, the opportunities, and a proposal with thoughts on an alternative process to create something new within in the range. I loved it, it was fresh, I got an immediate impression to his approach and I looked no further. So introduce yourself in a way that is difficult to ignore, the right person or company will pick up on that."

Aside of having a degree, what traits makes a good designer?

People hire culture first, capability second. Therefore when you work out your soft skills, you allow hiring managers to see a cultural fit. Simon Sinek does an excellent talk on effective teams where by he showed that the highest performing teams are those who you can trust the most, in other words, just good people, So personal values go a long way and the best thing you can invest in for your career progression is yourself.

As someone who hires - do you have top tips for finding/applying for a role?

  • You don't need to know what exactly you want, but find a general direction and move towards it. That gives you focus and gives a hiring manager a clearer picture on where you fit.

  • Have confidence in your ability, know that they are looking for you just as much as you are looking for them because what you are coming out of your degree with is vastly different than what the designer with 20 years experience has experience in and its extremely sought after.

  • Keep sharing your work, I've lost track of the amount of times a designer came to me and said I was first hired because I shared my work with the laceless community.

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