Dark Horse_01

Dark Horse_01 is a concept for a soccer cleat. This was a quick project in which I used sketch exploration to develop my design for a specific target user and come to a final solution. This was an individual project.



A “dark horse” is someone who is unknown but unexpectedly exceeds all expectations and is successful. A rookie can use her/his inexperience and anonymity as an advantage in this way and become a dark horse, seemingly coming out of nowhere to seize success.

I set out to design soccer cleats for this person. Many soccer cleats on the market use aggressive colors and design elements to attract attention, but a rookie still has to prove herself/himself, so this is not yet appropriate. A rookie who becomes a dark horse is quietly and stealthily waiting to steal the win when nobody is looking. Thus, the design is dark and unassuming with subtle bright accents, not unlike the bright warning colors on poisonous animals.


I started with a lot of hand sketching with pen on paper. I did many iterations at very small scales. If the design can stand out and be successful as a small, thumbnail sketch, the features and characteristics are meaningul and serve a purpose. Drawing small also prevents me from getting prematurely caught up in tiny details. After many iterations, I decided on a design and rendered it in Photoshop.



Each part of this project helped me develop different skills. Hand sketching cleats helped me find and really understand the form and how it changes with different angles. I also improved my Photoshop skills by challenging myself to do a more realistic footwear rendering than I had done in the past. And since this was an individual project, I had a lot of fun, because I was doing it because of genuine interest and enthusiasm!

I used to play soccer and will always love the sport, so this was a fun, short project for me! One day, I’d like to design soccer cleats and apparel!

Nicole Nassif