For as futuristic as their products are — in both design and material — it might surprise you to discover that much of what goes on inside the walls of Oakley's massive, steampunk-ish Foothill Ranch headquarters is grounded in analog techniques. From the initial design all the way through engineering, there's nary a computer involved. And as with everything else at the headquarters, that's by design.
Oakley's shades, bags, watches, and other goods begin life as conceptual designs, based around innovation and consumer needs. These designs are created by small teams, who work together to make drawings of the product as they vision it, often times coming eerily close to the finished version. Engineers are brought in to add their thoughts to the designs, and make sure they're functional — an important step for any product, but especially one that's going on your body.
Once everyone's happy with the initial design, it's turned into a real-life object using old-school tools like Exacto knives, scrapers, and chisels. It is then redesigned and approved by the engineers. From there, they go to CAD files, and are often cranked out on 3D printers — Oakley has been using them for over two decades, making them one of the first companies to use the technology — before being prototyped.
And while the company keeps a vast portion of its talent under the same roof — including R&D, advertising, marketing, and publicity — the design section of the building is off-limits to all but a select few. You have to be escorted in if you don't have access, and even then, some areas — like Oakley veteran Peter Yee's secret war room, where out of the box ideas and futuristic visions are the norm and where many of the company's most iconic designs were born — are limited even further.
So the next time you strap on an Oakley product that looks like it's from the future, remember that it was created with tools firmly rooted in the past.
Presented by Oakley. Watch Oakley's story of disruptive design, narrated by Kevin Spacey, here.