A Forbes ASAP artcle,Case Study: Reinventing The Heel, discusses the conditions, pressures and inspirations that Nike and its global creative director of footwear design John Hoke III (an architect by training) experience when consistently designing athletic footwear that not only sells outrageously well but that changes footwear designing altogether.
For all the state-of-the-art, computer-aided design to be found in modern manufacturing companies, Nike’s design department seems determinedly low tech. The pencil and sketch pad rule, followed by hands-on sample making. Some of the work, like the origami project, has the look of a grade school art class filled with gifted students. In a conference room adjoining the Nike design library, three young designers sit around a table piled with books about origami. They are appraising objects they’ve made, including a fairly complex ship that’s been folded from a single sheet of paper. As if to justify this pleasurable way of spending a workday, one of them points out that if they can learn how to fold products into useful shapes, they won’t have to punch out and assemble as many separate pieces. “Plus,” he says, “this project can provide a really rich source of aesthetic directions.”