A New Platform

The design

Molecule Shoes: The high-fashion shoes look like they were dipped in data–and, functionally, they were. They’re part of a capsule collection designed to show off 3-D printing‘s couture potential: With the right programming, each pair can be unique in style and color.

Process: Bitonti starts with a mathematical model that transforms numbers into visual patterns. Using proprietary software, he adds his own algorithms, which creates the shape of the shoe. In Adobe Photoshop, Bitonti applies a rich color gradient to the rendering, and a 3-D printer builds it using a photosensitive plastic that captures hues.

Significance: The shoes are an important salvo in an effort to prove 3-D printing’s place on the runway. In February, he’ll add a line of made-to-order accessories featuring handbags, jewelry, and, of course, more shoes.

The designer

Francis Bitonti: The Brooklyn-based designer is a 3-D–printing pioneer–creating otherworldly housewares for MakerBot’s retail store, a dress for burlesque star Dita von Teese, and now, partnering with Adobe and MakerBot parent Stratasys to expand the spectrum of colors used in 3-D printing.

Approach: “Most designers might sit down with a bunch of swatches. I don’t do mood boards. I don’t do sketches. We literally start with algorithms.”

Inspiration: “I am always impressed with how animators can use one shape to express a range of human emotion and feelings. It’s not that different from the way I’m thinking about products.”