TWO YEARS OUT of Stanford, product design graduate Natalie Griffen (’14) is launching a shoe app “SIR.”  With co-founder Jesse Clayburgh, Griffen has developed a shoe-sizing algorithm to make online heel shopping easier than ever.  Users snap a photo of their foot.  The algorithm then suggests perfect-match heels from their database.  I sat down with the bright-eyed heel visionary at a coffee shop in the Mission to learn more:

PULSE: What initially intrigued you about design?

NATALIE GRIFFEN: My dad is a graphic novelist and I used to draw when I was little so I knew I was into art.  But I’m also pretty good at math and wanted to do something that would be practical. When I went to the for the first time, it just clicked.  I liked how it looked, how it felt, and decided to major in product design.

P: What kind of designer would you consider yourself?

NG: The first word that comes to mind is visual, but it’s more holistic I guess.  I’ll find three job descriptions and want to do them all.  I like copywriting, for example, and creating the visual that goes with the copy!

P: What are you inspired by?

NG: I love physical spaces.  I was just in New York and there’s a bookstore that I love.  It was just being there and flipping through the pages of designer magazines.  With my phone, it’s so easy to record these sorts of inspirations.  

P: Why are you interested in fashion?

NG: I’d said that fashion shows were over-the-top, but I came to understand why. They take some crazy concept that they show on the runway and dilute that to become something that everyday people wear, which I thought was pretty cool. I think the visuals of fashion are awesome stimulus

P: How did your Stanford classes shape your understanding of design?

NG: ME203 was probably my favorite class because it gave me lot of knowledge that I didn’t have before.  Fiction90 is also up there.  It was the only A+ I got at Stanford!  For a moment freshman year, I thought about dropping product design to pursue creative writing.

P: How has your project evolved over the last few years?

NG: It went through a million steps.  Initially it started off as totally art based.  I submitted a grant to research adding more color into the shoe market at the London School of Fashion.   I really believe that everyone’s looking for that idea that they’re going to latch onto. But don’t give up on that one idea that’s not quite right because it could evolve into something that’s totally different.

P: What are you focusing on now?

NG: Right now we’re close to finishing the app.  Our biggest priority is speeding up how many shoes we can get into the system. 

P: What are you most excited about?

NG: Having other people use it [the app] and like it after having it in our closet for so long.  The bigger challenge is seeing what I can do with the brand.

P: What kind of advice would you give to current students?

Go to neat places where things are happening.  Surround yourself with interesting energy.  Go somewhere that invigorates what you think you can feel.  By working on a few self-started projects, I often get these random moments of euphoria that make everything worthwhile.