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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the unhappy customers behind Paul in the Post Office, as he posted them. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Paul designed 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.
32/78 comes from Jordan Nelson of & SMITH 'It's the Man that Makes the Shoes' using his Nikes to paint Bill Bowerman http://t.co/wf01wNjC
— NIKE78 (@NIKE78) August 27, 2012
— NIKE78 (@NIKE78) August 18, 2012
— NIKE78 (@NIKE78) August 15, 2012