Ari Montanez

podcast / alumni / product-design
February 20, 2019
Produced by Christine Spines
Photography by Juan Posada

Change Lab Podcast Episode 21

Ari Montanez on Realizing his NBA Dreams through Design

Fall 2018 Product Design graduate Ari Montanez has spent much of his relatively short life equipping himself with the skills and stamina necessary to succeed in a highly competitive arena – ideally Madison Square Garden or Staples Center.

Even though his parents both worked in creative fields—his mother was a standup comedian and his father was a fashion designer—Ari initially set his sights on following his hero, LeBron James’ size 15 footsteps from an elite high school straight into the pros.

But when it became apparent his hoop dreams might be slightly out of reach, Ari pivoted, with the agility of a gifted point guard, to pursue a parallel career as an athletic shoe designer. His goal was still to land on the basketball court – through his performance enhancing design—only now it was in spirit of not in body.

I realized I may not be able to make it on the court as a player but I can figure out a way to make it on the court with my drawing.

Ari diligently researched his new chosen profession and discovered, under the mentorship of footwear design legend D’Wayne Edwards, that ArtCenter offered the best training ground for him to channel his parallel passions for basketball, sneaker culture and drawing into a coveted gig as a professional shoe designer. Ari’s determination and dedication paid off. Several months before he graduated, Ari had accepted a job offer from No.One a start-up sneaker company specializing in high end handmade shoes.

Each season, we dedicate one episode to capturing a student or recent graduate, just as they’re poised to leave ArtCenter and embark on their creative travels. Ari’s journey from to dedicated athlete to hands-on maker seemed like the perfect narrative to kick off the fourth season of Change Lab.

In this episode, which includes a visit to No.One’s Venice studio, Ari and Lorne discussed spark that ignited his interest in design, his insights into the booming sneaker subculture and how his facility for casual human connection animates and adds the special sauce to his design process. In combination, these two experiences yielded a visceral portrait of the exhilaration and exploration and uncertainty fueling a nascent artist or designer’s creative journey.

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