Sole of the UX – Behind the scenes


Of the projects we’ve worked on in the last 20 years, designing a unique set of tyres for a new Lexus, for New York Fashion Week, was one of the more unusual ones. 




We’re accustomed to working on new product sectors and categories, and our experience and processes show in our productivity when short time frames are involved, but this project was a little different. To summarise, an early conversation with the client went something like this:


Client:  Tej, have you ever designed a tyre?
Tej: No
C:  Could you design a tyre?
TC: Sure
C:  Would you like to?
TC: Yes please. Let me check our schedule
C:  Well, you have 6 weeks from now
TC: For design?
C:  For concept, design, sign-offs from three different stakeholders, fabrication & production, and delivery to New York (accounting for customs clearance) with a fixed deadline. Can you make them driveable?
TC: 😐


(And there was one testing opportunity – the night before launch). 




I knew that we could design something we felt was spectacular, no problem. The issue was production of the actual tyres in that timescale, because it left no time for the testing rounds we’re used to – we had to get it right first time, and be absolutely certain that they would take the weight of the brand new 2-tonne Lexus on the night. 


So, I picked up the phone to my long term partner-in-crime Frank Heijlighen from 3D Systems Benelux, previously of TIM Modelmakers in Eindhoven.


TC: Frank, have you ever made a tyre?
FH: No…


It took us a couple of days to see if we could come up with a plan that might actually work. The fact is that without a built in testing round, it was difficult to be sure. But, we came to a decision – “Fuck it, let’s do it.” This is why Frank and I get along. 


To deliver a project like this requires a crack team and a “can-do” attitude. Like The A-Team. This is one of those unforgettable collaborations, where all the players were in powerful synchronisation – from the absolutely incredible client-side team, a trusted, proactive and brilliant production partner, and a truly amazing and tireless design team. Through this close collaboration, cancelling Christmas and Beatrice powering through a horrible cold, we did it. Sole Of The UX was one of those projects I’ll always look back on it with fondness. 


The final design featured a structural core to take the weight of the car, and more. We then used a combination of 3D printed parts, high-end leathers, special paints and hand polished metal work to complete. The only thing we couldn’t make them do was roll. But, it was Lexus’ most successful social media campaign to date. Here are some pictures…



























Sole of the UX, a collaboration for Lexus x John Elliott. See the project here_


o Posted by Tej Chauhan. Category - Journal / All