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Why you need to go to a skateboard shop


If you're a programmer, attorney, teacher, chef, preacher, marketer, whatever--you can't ignore the crucial importance of design, especially today. And one of the best places to find it is... the nearest skateboard shop.

The photo above is from the bottom of my latest board, and I almost hated mounting the trucks (the thing that holds the wheels) because I loved the art. (This photo doesn't do it justice, because the image is now obscured by the wheels.)

Some of today's best and brightest designers are working on skateboard/snowboard art, as well as the gear that goes with it, and it's definitely worth a trip to your nearest skateboard shop (and I recommend either a skateboard or skateboard/snowboard shop rather than one that's strictly about snowboards).

If you're not a skater yourself, don't let that stop you. Think of it as a visit to an urban modern art gallery. Just don't go to one of those typical "mall" stores! The real skaters in your area will be able to tell you where the real skateboard shop is, and it's worth finding that lesser-known place the serious locals know about. (Although even the mall stores will still have rows of wonderfully-designed boards to look at.)

I buy my gear at the Satellite Boardshop in Boulder, and it's a great example of a store that's worth spending time in just soaking up the design of the boards, shoes, and even the store interior. (And if you're not in the neighborhood, check out the website).

A couple other places to check out online are:

Girl Skateboards


Elements, who also make some of the best "hoodie" sweatshirts I've ever seen.

And while you're looking in unusual places for design (especially contemporary, young, urban design) ideas, you should also consider a stop at Kid Robot, with stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles (you can't go to SF without making a stop at Kid Robot, which is just down the street from the world's best music store, Amoeba).

Oh yeah, once you're in toy mode, don't forget that "plush toys" have a whole new meaning among designers today. These are not the cute stuffed animals you had as a kid. These stuffed creatures are showing up in galleries and high-end stores, for a hefty price-tag, but they represent another aspect of a design trend that keeps surprising me.

I guess the point is--no matter what your age, your end-users are (for most of our target markets) going to keep getting younger. We all need to keep figuring out what our new users are all about, and how their brains work, and looking at their design sensibilities is one of the most powerful ways. Too many people tend to see only the films -- and listen only to the music--that reflect the style they liked when they were in their late teens and early twenties. Forcing myself to listen to newer, younger music, and watching newer, younger films (and by "younger", no I don't mean the 3,242 viewings of Nemo you've been watching with your three-year old) is one of the best things I can do to stay in better touch with my younger, hipper, differently-wired users.

And if you're not a video game player, you have a great excuse to start. Get your ass down to Best Buy or the local video game store and pick up an XBox or a Sony Playstation. Or, you can start with my latest toy--I mean serious PDA--the Tapwave Zodiac. It's the best Palm OS device you can get for the money, and while it's nearly as cool as the Sony PSP, you can justify it like I did by using it to do everything from word processing to Quicken to keeping your Getting Things Done lists. I love the idea of writing off game playing as a business expense. Market research.

We'll do whatever it takes to understand our users. No matter what the sacrifice.

Posted by Kathy on May 24, 2005 | Permalink


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Yay! A fellow skater! Have you been into it long or is it a New Thing for you? I'm just getting back into skateboard skating after a hiatus of 16 years or so, inspired by the guys at http://www.middle-age-shred.com/ - I've two boards on order already: a Green Fog Homewrecker longboard and a MAS deck from Buffalo Longboards.

Posted by: Matt Moran | May 25, 2005 3:12:35 AM

If the trucks obscure the art, isn't that sort of crappy design for a skateboard?

Posted by: Ped Ant | May 25, 2005 6:08:07 AM

Can I just add about the Satellite website - ew! That's got to have been the worst designed website I've ever seen. Maybe it just doesn't work that well in Safari, but when you get past the (granted, whimsical and quite amusing) intro, and you click on "shop", you get a thing flash up for about a microsecond about their mission, and then all you get is the word "Shop" in a blank white field. The word doesn't link to an online shop - there's just nothing useful in there. 10/10 for originality, 0/10 for useability. Someone's gone way overboard with the Flash and just not thought about how people are going to use his/her site.

Posted by: Matt Moran | May 25, 2005 7:04:52 AM

Of all things you say here, the one that strikes a chord with me is your last bit referring to video games. I am probably one of the few in my age group crowd that isn't a gamer, and not because I don't want to - simply, work and family demands have made it impossible for me to get and/or justify spending time in video games. My skills on the subject stopped somewhere around the age of the original NES console.

However, I've never wanted to be one of those left behind stuck in the 80's (there are some of my generation that already are), and the importance to stay current and "hip" if you pretend to talk to today's under-30 demographic cannot be denied, so I've been thinking about tightening my agenda schedule and consider investing on a PS3. After all, I probably deserve some fun after all these years :D

Posted by: beto | May 25, 2005 9:42:58 AM

"Too many people tend to see only the films -- and listen only to the music--that reflect the style they liked when they were in their late teens and early twenties."

That's true in non-professional contexts as well. I can't remember the date, but I remember the moment as a teen when I looked at my Mom in the car, refusing to listen to anything recorded after 1979, and decided "that will never be me."

So I never stopped watching MTV, never stopped playing games, and so on. My wife and I even hit Spring Break in Florida a couple years ago. Growing wise is helpful, but growing old never did a damned thing for anyone.

Posted by: Roger Benningfield | May 26, 2005 6:30:09 AM

Alien Workshop : http://aws.dnadistribution.com/wicca.html has some great board art as well. Not to mention there are a number of good "coffee table" books on skate/surf/snow board artwork.

Posted by: Brandon | May 26, 2005 7:05:00 AM

And you skate too. I think I'm in love.

Posted by: Brian | May 26, 2005 3:44:46 PM

"So I never stopped watching MTV"
but if you want to actually watch videos, try FuseTV.

Posted by: Ralph Richard Cook | May 27, 2005 8:26:00 AM

I got my boards today! *squeee*
I've put my longboard together and been out round the block on it a few times, but my shortboard still needs trucks & wheels. I just thought I'd share this picture of them with you:
http://www.sciamachy.org.uk/images/Skateboardsthumb.jpg for a thumbnail
http://www.sciamachy.org.uk/images/Skateboards.jpg for the big pic.
(All Work-safe of course)

Posted by: Matt Moran | May 27, 2005 1:25:53 PM

I've not skated in a few years, not since we took the quarter-pipe out of the office. However I couldn't agree with you more on the skater/design issue, and I don't think it's a coincidence:

- Skaters take calculated risks
- Good design is about taking calculated risks

That's why 90% of my team are skaters and BMXers, that's why we have pages like this (http://www.missinglink.co.za/tattoos.php) on our site.

I want to attract those types...!

Posted by: Rich...! | May 29, 2005 3:46:06 PM

To Brian: You sure know how to make someone's day : ) [I like the surfing theme on your site, by the way... I used to work at the "Surf 'n' Wear shop in San Luis Obispo CA back in the day, and although I was a lousy surfer myself, I worked with some of the world's best surfers--the George brothers (Matt and Sam) were both working there at that time. ]

To Matt: Yay for you! Thanks for posting the link... wow, I haven't had a long-board in many years; I might have to think about that. There *are* a lot of hills around here. And thanks so much for the link to middle-age-shred. That's aweseome. Another one that inspired me to get back to it was:


I stopped for almost ten years before getting back to it. I like the newer gear, but I miss the old school boards. Notice I have just about the widest trucks and wheels you can get today; I still do old-school footwork tricks (no stairs for me, thank-you), so I like that stability. I've been to some vintage sites and vintage stores, but nothing that reminds me of the boards I had in college (both of which were special experimental models made by Santa Cruz skateboards... I *briefly* was on their skateboard team when I was in college... but then blew out my knee doing a kick-flip pirouette).

My New Year's Resolution for 2005 is to learn to do a decent ollie, but I used the snow as an excuse to not even dust off my skateboard until a few weeks ago. Guess I better get to it...

Rich: I just love you guys more and more all the time : )

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | May 30, 2005 5:00:52 PM

Kathy: That skateboard mom website has inspired my wife now - she's made me promise to get her a pink/lilac Bam Margera psychedelic board from Element, for once she's had our second child (she's 19 weeks pregnant at the moment and therefore banned from skating!)

Posted by: Matt Moran | Jun 3, 2005 7:09:09 AM

Your board looks like a hybrid of old school and new school to me. You've got the big yo-yo wheels, which is definitely old school, but your board has a lip on both ends, which allows kids these days to fall and injure themselves in ways we could only dream of in the 80s.

A few other people have mentioned this, but the longboard revivial has been a ton of fun. Cross stepping and nose riding on a skateboard - alright!

Posted by: geoff | Jun 3, 2005 5:28:23 PM

So true, I was blown away by the way skateboard art (vintage and current) slotted straight into a great show I saw on a visit to the Cincinatti Contemporary Art Center (itself an icon of astonishing design) at the beginning of the year. But, I'd have to say if you're interested in great design, check out Thomas Heatherwick on this side of the pond.

Posted by: john | Jun 7, 2005 3:20:15 PM

best information

Posted by: pradip | Oct 20, 2005 5:39:00 AM

You should check out some of the Krooked boards over at http://dlxsf.com
This is a company by Mark Gonzales a true legend in skateboarding. Mark art work is really hot and is in big demand every where. I think he even owns a few art places over sea as well.

Posted by: Carl | Feb 18, 2006 8:42:24 AM

Stop speaking about the art and start making the TRUE SKATE ART. get a board ..

Posted by: Skater | Mar 20, 2007 12:25:42 PM


Posted by: patrick | May 10, 2007 7:45:21 AM

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