Our Grails: Conversations on Our Most Prized Sneakers
Sneakers are ubiquitous cultural artifacts. Embedded with the marrow of society’s customs, institutions, and beliefs, sneakers are the brushstrokes capturing states of our existence. But what do these artifacts — in particular our most prized, often unattainable ones — say about us as individuals? This thesis mines for the pieces of ourselves that enkindle reverence for these objects; framed through conversations with 24 sneaker collectors, it identifies these cherished artifacts as the coalescence of identity, life experience, and individual aspirations. Applying design as a storytelling medium, its aim is to capture what it means to know one’s self through a sneaker.
Julian Body, a native of Portland, Oregon, is a multihypenate whose journey began in human centered user experience and product design. Exploring unfamiliar spaces is one of Body’s core motivations — this curiosity has led him to operate across the domains of interaction design, graphic design, print, and photography. In all of his work, Body strives to uncover and relate stories that push us towards a greater understanding of the self.
Body studied previously at Stanford University, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Product Design and Engineering. As a graduate student, Body has served as a teaching assistant within the School of Art + Art History + Design and has also been a teaching team member in the Global Innovation Exchange at UW. During summer terms, he held internships with global brands including Mercedes Benz and eBay.
- Kristine Matthews, Chair
- Jason O. Germany
- MDes, University of Washington, 2022
- BS, Product Design, Stanford University
Excerpt from commentary by Heidi Biggs
A grail sneaker is a sneaker someone longs for, searches after, and perhaps never finds. Like other great quests, it requires personal dedication and some irresistible pull or ‘hype’ that drives the journey. Julian Body is no stranger to sneaker collecting and has been admiring sneakers since his first coveted pair of LeBron 4s that he purchased with his dad for a season of youth basketball… In his thesis, Julian brings the culture and stories of sneaker collecting to life by interviewing sneaker collectors about their own personal ‘grail’ shoes and then turning these interviews into a long-form, self-designed book. His meditation on the ‘grail sneaker’ is told through 23 different vignettes of sneaker collectors around the country from different backgrounds and demographics