A collaborative open production line for shoe making

Published on February 24, 2014


Don’t Run – Beta is a pilot production line initiated by Eugenia Morpurgo (IT) and Juan Montero (GB/SP).

It is an experimental system focused on illustrating the possibility of a transparent, open and collaborative production line for shoe making and design. Taking a step away from the established status quo and the relentless pursuit of quantity and profit. Don’t Run – Beta is intent on highlighting a possible alternative to mass production through small scale on demand digital fabrication.

The decentralisation of large scale production and distribution makes it possible to offer greater localised control to both designers and consumers. Creating a system for design that is accessible, flexible and with components that invite repair,adaptation and intervention based on a dialogue rather than and definite blueprint.

Don’t Run – Beta has created a template which offers greater personal understanding and shared responsibility throughout the products lifecycle and demands a higher physical relationship between the point of conception and consumption. This shift in system transfers shoe production from factory floors across the globe to self contained high street factories in towns and cities. Proposing new roles for the consumer who becomes the co-worker, student and teacher.

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Don’t Run Beta shoes

Rapid manufacturing machines such as laser cutters and 3D printers work in sync to create small scale on demand components. The system is developed in a way that eliminates the need for stitching or gluing during the assembly process. This combined with simplified assembly methods a limited amount of components and the specific use of materials and technologies in the soles, connectors and the uppers, mean all individual components correspond to one another in an easy and systematic way.

The strength of reversible connections permits reparation throughout the products lifecycle. Facilitated disassembly also means components can now be disposed of and recycled according to their material properties once they come to the end of their cycle and a shorted production chain results in a system for prototyping and production that is quick, economical and easy and that works within rhythm of production embracing its limitations.


Technology of production

Molds for the soles of the shoes create the first big investment in production. Traditionally two of each number will be necessary for every model. To cover the cost of such investment large-scale production is essential. This generates the need for large-scale storage and in turn results in a stock surplus. Together these become some of the biggest expenses for shops and companies.
With demand from Industry to generate maximum returns and profit they create a sheer volume of products that are the result of compromise. Restricted dialogues often leave us knowing little if anything about how or where our products originate.
As the Don’t Run – Beta system works with CNC technologies. Physical molds are replaced with digital data, creating unlimited digital libraries of soles, sizes and styles. This effectively reduces the need for any real physical storage and helps to eliminate as much as 75% of the current production process. Importantly it also allows us to bypass the huge initial economic investments implicated in shoe production.

This use of digital allows real time innovation, customisation and change all possible through meaningful dialogue. Every shape and size can be accounted for and produced onsite where the controlled stock of raw materials is transformed into a product only in the presence of real demand. Giving control back to the designer and subsequently offering consumers greater choice and a better understanding of the production process. A process that takes approximately one hour from start to finish.

Don’t Run – Beta’s produces a versatile system for design that today can produce a shoe and tomorrow can adapt and grows to produce bags, lights and any other product that follows the same simple steps we have applied.

laser Materials

Every shoe has a face – A transparent system for design

Don’t Run Beta is essentially an open call for designers. The power of a flexible system for designing and making means that the possibility for customisation and new combinations is endless. They gave the template to three different shoe designers. Sophia Guggenberger created a closed shoe, Eliska Kuchtova designed a summer shoe and Anastsija Mase designed a sandal.
Entrusting each designer with the autonomy and responsibility to design. They were invited to develop and produce a pair of shoes based on the Don’t Run – Beta system, working within the constraints of our production method (i.e no stitching or gluing) and with the use of prototyping technologies. They were challenged to submit designs for production that are technically quite different from traditional shoe design and construction.
They established an online relationship to track progress, working together at each stage in the development of the shoes, from the first prototype through to final production.
This working method only becomes possible to us through the use of CNC technologies. As a fraction of the initial investment is needed for the complex assembly, machinery and tools normally associated with shoe production. These traditional methods have been replaced with technologies much cheaper to buy and available for rent. It means designers can see patterns and prototypes take shape in just a matter of hours and there designs become data capable of being stored and transported on something as small as usb stick ready for production.


From the end of November 2013 through until the end of December 2013 Don’t Run- Beta was invited to take part in a month long residency (Gent, Belgium). The residency was set up in collaboration with the TimeLab Gent who provided all the technical support and machinery necessary to run a pilot production line at street level.
Hosted by These Things Take Time art space Don’t Run – Beta was able explore the possibility of High Street Factory directly with the public. For one month citizens could enter the space, choose the materials and produce their own shoes.
The experience begins with the selection of a preferred style. From here the customer is offered the freedom to choose the material, colour composition and detailing for their particular shoe. As they only buy end of line leather from local sellers in an attempt to re-use off cuts and waste leather the pieces are cheaper and one offs meaning the shoes will have unique and limited colours pallets that helps keep costs down to a minimum. Something reflected in the final price of the shoes which stands between 70 and 110 euros. The price is dependant on material and weight as this is a direct reflection of material used and time taken to cut and produce the shoe.
Furthermore the customer is physically present to see first hand the production and cutting of their shoe template. Finally they are instructed on how to assemble all of the components themselves. Step by step the customer is a part of the process.
What they have are high streets with micro factories set up to deliver personal and transparent products only in the presence of real demand.

Generic industrialisation process illustrations by Francesco Zorzi.

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Don’t run has been made in collaboration with:
Design of uppers – Sophia Guggenberger, Anastasija MassEliška Kuchtová
Photo – Federico Floriani
Illustrations – Francesco Zorzi
Graphic communication – Olivia de Gouveia



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