THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: A look at
the unusual Minimus HI-REZ package design

Inspiration, as you know, can come from anywhere. It crosses industries, people, time zones, and (infuriatingly) often strikes when you least expect it.

For Upshot, the marketing agency in charge of designing the package for Minimus HI-REZ — one of the most technically innovative running shoes to come along in years — inspiration came from the wonderfully weird mind of legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. "We explored how this shoe was the next evolution of running," says Upshot. "So we watched scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey that told an evolution story in a technological context."

It may seem peculiar, or at least unconventional, to draw inspiration for a shoebox from the creator of such controversial films as Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, and A Clockwork Orange. Then again, nothing about HI-REZ is even remotely conventional. From the sock-like upper to the individual rubber pods that dot the outsole, the design of the shoe itself speaks volumes of the team's willingness to defy convention in the name of creating a truly unique, memorable experience. Within this context, maybe Kubrick-as-muse makes sense after all.

Both Upshot and New Balance's Associate Integrated Marketing Manager Keith Kelly were kind enough to shed some light on the process for creating HI-REZ's unique packaging — from the surprising initial concepts to its striking final design:

On The Overarching Design Concept:

UPSHOT: The true story of this shoe is in the unique sole created from individual hexagonal pods instead of one solid piece—so the hexagon came through strongly in many of our ideas.

On Non-Kubrick Inspiration:

UPSHOT: We thought about the interplay of the shoe's manmade and natural-looking elements, exploring images of reptiles and other animals. We looked at hexagons in nature, from flowers to beehives. We also looked at design approaches from other industries, especially the innovative "Hex Bugs" toys that blend organic and technological elements. After taking in all this inspiration, we set forth to create concepts that told a story about the shoe.

On Early Designs

KEITH KELLY: Initially we worked on executing hex-shaped boxes that could be stacked to form unique shapes in-store. However, we had issues in building a box that could house the shoes but maintain a minimal size. There were also considerations to sticker labels and operational processes.

On Overcoming Design Challenges:

UPSHOT: Our biggest challenge was in balancing the desire to create a breakthrough box with the need to work within existing production and shipping constraints. We needed to create a package with all the strengths of a typical shoebox (durability, stackability) but with the talk value of a more unique design. Additionally, the shoe is exceptionally minimal, so we wanted to keep the packaging as minimal as possible or at least cut down on materials.

On Linking The Boxes Together When Stacked:

UPSHOT: HI-REZ is all about connection: connecting with the ground, connecting with a more natural style of running, even connecting with yourself. So we were intrigued by the idea that the boxes themselves could create a connection. Of course, it's a nice bonus that the boxes can act as their own compelling in-store display.

On Where They Ended Up:

UPSHOT: After many rounds of trying to build a hex-shaped box we landed on a traditional shape with a twist: a slimmed-down frame and a see-through hexagonal window.

On The See-Through "Pod" Windows:

UPSHOT: Initially, we explored packaging that was entirely transparent to really show off the product. That wasn't feasible, but we still felt it was important to offer a glimpse of the shoe.
KEITH KELLY: It adds to the idea that this is something to be excited about.

Final Thoughts:

UPSHOT: It's an incredibly innovative shoe, so we wanted to create innovative packaging that lived up to that. The packaging needed to be as unique and interesting as the footwear itself.
KEITH KELLY: When someone asks to try on this product we want it to be a special experience — and that starts with the box that the product lives in.

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