Inspired by sport, 78 people across the world challenged the function of Nike shoes

Nike78 Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo LAB

The client

Nike, Inc. is one of the world’s leading sports brands. Their mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete. The brand fosters a culture of invention – creating products, services and experiences for today’s athlete while solving problems for the next generation.

Nike78 was also made possible by YCN, a creative network based in London. Members of YCN are creatively minded people and organisations from around the world, designers through to entrepreneurs.

The problem

YCN gave us access to donated Nike sneakers from one of the latest stores that had opened in London. We’ve done a lot of previous work with sneakers and sports brands, so it was a natural fit – with the aim being to use the sneakers for a self-initiated project. Instead, we saw this an opportunity to pitch a project idea back to Nike, an opportunity to create an insightful idea, rooted in the brand.


After speaking with people we knew who had worked with Nike, bouncing concepts off them, and alongside research into the brand and what they stood for, we proposed a first concept to the Nike Sportswear team in London. The key takeaway was that ourselves and Nike agreed to make the project all about sport. Whilst some other sports brand veer towards the ‘lifestyle’ and ‘fashion’ avenues, everything that Nike does is always connected back to sport.

Nike went on to commission our project concept, titled Nike78.

Nike78 Logo

The Nike78 identity.

How we solved it

The Nike78 concept

Instead of creating another ‘trainer tagging’ project, asking the same people to embellish sneakers, we wanted to run a more insightful and brand-led project. We wanted the project to involve people from all areas of the creative industries, from all over the world.

We looked at what Nike stood for when it first started, and how the transition from Blue Ribbon Sports (the former brand name) into Nike affected the core of the brand. Nike started by only producing athletic running shoes, and whilst the brand has evolved into many different areas in the modern day, this first function for us was key. Connecting the original function of Nike shoes along with the brand’s sport theme was the basis of the Nike78 project. We asked 78 people across the world, to re-challenge the function of a pair of Nike shoes, keeping sport at the heart of their inspiration.


Sourcing the right people for the project was going to be key. We didn’t just want the same people featured on the same design blogs every month to be involved. Instead, we tracked down those who we thought could handle a concept-driven project like Nike78 – own it, and use the concept as their own project opportunity.

Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo LAB were inspired by how Nike sneakers can improve the health and life of a person using them, so they wanted to improve the life of a Japanese symbolic animal, the goldfish, by giving it a new habitat.

Nike78 Jordan Nelson
Nike78 Jordan Nelson

Jordan Nelson of &Smith used his Nikes as artistic tools, painting the co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, on a 5ft square wooden canvas.

We were the people who came up with the Nike78 idea – the people who took part were the ones who created and elevated what was achieved. 🎉

We scouted for people across all continents with the aim of having someone from each continent involved, ending up with a group of outstanding people ready to be sent a blank pair of Nikes to make the opportunity their own.

We had such a variety of people involved in Nike78, from the likes of ANSWR, a studio in Tokyo, to Bompas & Parr and film director Shelly Love in London, eBoy in Berlin, through to Mimi Leung in Australia. People’s specialist skills included illustration, cooking, digital, knitting, film and performance art. Not everyone was an individual, with companies, collectives and duos also being involved – around 115+ people took part in the end.

Steve Wilcox reimagined his Nikes in a series of photographic landscapes where sports enthusiasts could choose to train and compete in the future.

Our two challenges with collaborating with so many people were the logistics and managing everyone. For anyone who was London-based, we donned ‘white van and man’ personalities for a day and hand-delivered the sneakers. As for everyone else, well, you can imagine how unhappy customers behind us in the Post Office were. Once everyone received their Nikes, it was then about staying in touch with everyone to help them with any problems or requests – and then collating their final content.

The other main task was to keep everyone on track with the brief. Most people at some point said, “we’re finding it difficult”, which was great as we wanted the project to be challenging and this gave us the opportunity to connect directly with each person to help them, and also helped us to curate the entire body of work.

We’d gone from being designers who came up with the idea, to curators helping people to deliver their final outcome.


We still smile at the amazing selection of work created by everyone involved. Each person’s idea, process and final execution were brilliantly done – completely blowing the original challenge out of the water.

Nike78 Shelly Love

Film director Shelly Love, created a 15 minute short film, entitled ‘Strange Gold Shoes’, telling the fantastical shoe-making story of Bella and Bob. The film went on to be nominated for a British Arrows Television and Advertising Craft Award.

Nike78 Patrick Fry Shaz Madani

Patrick Fry and Shaz Madani teamed up to create a series of prints inspired by the shapes and forms that their pair of sneakers were made up from.

Marcus Price and Bait Studio worked together to produce an animation inspired by the idea of ‘Runner’s High’ – the lucid mental and physical state that runners can go into when running long distances.

Nike78 Erican Dorn

Erica Dorn made the ‘Marathon Cake’ – the negative calorie equivalent for an average woman running a marathon. If you eat this cake, you can say goodbye to the calories you just burned during your marathon.

ANSWR (now THINKR) in Tokyo were inspired by how the rules of sports change over time, so they recreated their Nikes by adapting the rules of the forms of the sneakers.

Container, a London-based collective created the story of ‘the creature who ate the runner’, using their sneakers to create the nest for the creature’s new offspring.

PRing the project

We’re certainly not PR specialists. We help people to create things that get noticed by their fans, but a specific push always helps to speed things up. We did, however, research into certain individuals and online and offline media publications that would understand the concept – and targeted them to cover and help us to promote the project.

What we found most interesting was how one seeded press release seemed to find it’s way to both mainstream and really specific publications and websites. From the BBC’s technology blog, to Creative Review, through to knitting blogs getting in touch asking for the pattern template for one of the outcomes.

We also had some negative press, as with a brand like Nike, this can happen. Specifically for Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo LAB’s outcome, it was termed as the ‘mistreatment of fish’. It’s important to note that no fish were harmed.

Jean Jullien was interested in the actual people who wear Nikes, or in his version, the monsters. If you are a monster, you are an athlete.

The Nike78 website

Originally, we had a complex and fussy website for the project, but after inviting Scheybeler+company to take part, we decided to rebuild the website from the ground up together. The original aim of the project was to put on an exhibition at the end, showcasing all the amazing outcomes. However, as the project developed and the online interest grew, what would be more effective would be to create a long-standing archive of the project to showcase the concept, people and outcomes.

The main challenge of the website was the large amount of content to be shown, images, films and words.

We aimed to make navigation to this content for users as simple to understand as possible. Designing the identity to be brutally simple on purpose, incorporating Nike’s signature slanted uppercase words into a marker pen graphic, enhanced with a bold colour, pink. The website would use the colour as the main point of navigation, anything that is pink is navigation.

The content was supported by a customised CMS, creating features such as a large ‘78’ randomly loading an outcome on each homepage load. On project pages, even the black parts of the logo were removed to focus on the content below, maintaining a pink ‘78’ for a clear step in navigation. The website was designed to be fully responsive across small, medium and large screens.

Finally, the Nike78 Twitter page was used to document the project throughout its duration, revealing who the participants were and showcasing work-in-progress. When the new website eventually went live, a countdown on Twitter from 1 to 78 gave each person involved a day to be showcased.

Nike78 Animated

The results

Some of the Nike78 participants have reflected on their experiences of taking part in the project:

“It was an honour being invited to work on the project alongside so many studios and individuals whose work I hugely respected. I saw the brief as an opportunity and a challenge to work in an unfamiliar medium and my response to the brief resulted in a series of black and white photographs. It was fascinating to see how the other participants responded to the same brief. The diversity and quality of the responses, even looking back now, was incredible.” – Steve Wilcox

“I was pretty taken a-back when I saw the list of names taking part in Nike78, many of whom I was a big fan of – so the pressure was really on to come up with something epic. I think it says a lot about Paul and his team and the brief they put together that not only did so many brilliant creatives want to take part in the project, but they worked hard to come up with so many brilliant ideas. To be counted amongst them was a real win for me personally. Hats off to everyone involved.” – Will Hooke

“Nike78 gave Sennep the opportunity to experiment with HTML5 audio, something we did for the first time on this project. Research and development plays a key role for us and the challenge provided the team with a fun way to learn new skills.” – Barrie Bloor, Sennep

“It was a real pleasure being asked to be involved in Nike78, a project brief that was so interesting. I wanted to do something three dimensional with this opportunity as being an illustrator, and primarily a computer based one at that, I often find myself in a two dimensional world of flat images and flat prints. Being given an actual pair of Nikes to play with was a wonderful break from that. I remember struggling at the beginning, trying to get my head round how to approach the brief, but remember one day coming up with the idea of creating something that was more inclusive than the single pair of trainers, that more than one person could use and gain enjoyment from.

From that initial thought I came to probably the most famous, universally used piece of sports equipment in the world, the humble football, and set about making one from pieces of the Nike trainers, and also some bits of the box too. Practically, I don’t think my football would last a full 90 minutes…maybe not even 5 minutes, but it did make for a visually striking piece.” – Stephen Cheetham

What initially was an ambitious and abstract project concept, developed into a unique brand-orientated and large scale collaboration, putting people at the centre of the idea. We ourselves went from being designers to curators and eventually to clients, when teaming up with Scheybeler+company, a unique 360 experience.

Online press coverage included: Adverblog, BBC’s tech blog, Boooooom, Campaign, Cnet, Core77, Creative Review, Design Boom, FormFiftyFive, High Snobiety, Hypebeast, SlamXHype, Sneaker Freaker, Wonderland as well as several of Nike’s own channels.

Offline press coverage included: Art&Design, Vision, Campaign, Kult, Metro.


Website design in collaboration with: Scheybeler+company