Jul 2, 2012

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The Nike Internship, week 3

Week 3 already, time flies here!

Another week packed with great events and talks, and a lot of creative work has been going on with my own department as part of a great design experience.


Diversity & Innovation – The Medici Effect

We had a real great workshop set up for all the interns about diversity and innovation. It was a great way of discussing how creative thinking is much more powerful when theirs a diverse team working together. Diversity can be found on many levels, whether it’s based on the workplace (seniority, work location, department, etc…), or on a cultural level (education, income, religion, marital status, etc…), or on a human level (race, age, gender, etc…). The more diverse a team is, the more and better ideas they would come up with, and that’s the type of work environment big and successful companies tend to follow, which is creating a culture of innovation in all parts of the company. The idea of diversity leading to innovation is also what is know as the Medici Effect, where you would have a set of possibilities or variables coming together and giving you an unlimited number of results and combinations.


The first exercise we were given was called “Change my story”. Each one of us paired up with the person next to them and started off by telling a random story, the other person had to throw words at you, and based off that word you had to shift your story and make it relevant to that word. The words were really random, but the stories became really fun and interesting. The whole idea behind this exercise was to tell us that business ideas always shift around this way, and we should be as flexible as possible to adapt, and usually it is when things go off track that leads us to innovation and unexpected territories.

In the Medici Effect, they believe in the power of “&”, and always building off other peoples idease. “&” is an important corner stone of any successful company, and especially at Nike, to share ideas and innovation through diversity. “&” is the power of (combinations – intersections – connections – collaborations).

Medici comes from the name of a family in Florence, the Medici’s, who were a wealthy family of bakers. The Medici’s built their city and business by bringing people from all disciplines to work in their city, Artists, Poets, Builders, Bankerts, etc… This way, they were able to create a very diverse work force in the community, where each one could inspire the other, and as a whole the community and society would benefit from a more innovative and advanced living environment.

The second exercise we did as a group, we were given a set of random pictures, and were told combine 2 or more of them and come up with an interesting concept or idea to present. As a group we were building off each others ideas and coming up with some real interesting ideas. Here’s a list of the images we were given:

To summarize, these ideas are all based off the book “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johansson. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Innovation and coming up with new ideas. Here are the truths and tips he shares in his book:


Truth #1 – New ideas are combinations of existing ideas

Truth #2 – Not all combinations are created equal, divergent combinations are powerful.

Tip: Find inspiration in fields and cultures other than your own.

Truth #3 – More ideas lead to better ideas.

Truth #4 – Diverse teams generate more ideas.



Truth #5 – Innovation is a creative idea that has been executed

Truth #6 – Innovation involves learning by trying.

Tip: Allow for failure & recover quickly, failure is the price of innovation.



Truth #7 – Inclusive cultures welcome and invite ideas and opinions.

Truth #8 Associative barriers prevent us from making overnight connections.

After introducing the Medici Effect, Nike has split us into 14 groups of interns from different disciplines and backgrounds, to work together on a Cross Function Project for the next 10 weeks of our internship program. Each group was presented with a real challenge that Nike has been trying to improve or better recently as a company for the past few years. By the end of the internship we will be presenting our ideas to members at the senior level here at Nike.


Emerging Programs

Every year Nike a number of Nike employees get to go on a trip by themselves to some countries in Asia and South America to explore, learn, and get inspired by other cultures. The idea is for them to gain a much richer and hands on experience to the kind of craft and skills being used abroad. As designers, they get to research and study all kinds of techniques, and be able to come back to Nike filled with inspiration, to inspire others on their team and and innovate.

This week we met with Jesi Small, a Footwear Designer at Nike Action Sports. She shared with us her story of visiting Japan, the things she saw and learned, and the things she had collected and brought back. It was nice to hear her stories and the people she had met with and learned from. She showed us a collection of the things she had brought back with her, and what she liked and appreciated in each piece. Whether it was the level of detail, material, idea, or just how interesting something looked, she could always tie it back into one of her future designs. She also shared with us her trip to one of the masters in weaving using a specific method in Japan. Seeing the whole process of weaving, dying the color, and the technique used behind it was just mind blowing.

Japan Collection

Japan Collection

Jesi Small, showing us the different materials and weaving methods used


It’s interesting to see how much Nike cares and invests in enriching it’s designers with such experiences and opportunities, being part of Nike Design is truly great, with inspiration pouring in from everywhere, and this is just one of the reason why this company keeps growing and what it has become today!

I guess whether you are at Nike or anywhere else, travelling is always a great thing, keep your eyes open to everything around you, and do some research about the place you are visiting to get a better understanding and sense of the things they do so you can invest your time in a better manner. Be a sponge, and appreciate everything that community has to offer, and once you leave that place you will be taking a whole new set of experiences back with you which you could always share with others and utilize as part of your design process and thinking.

One of the interesting objects brought from Japan

On a side note, the Action Sports building, which is called Burnside, is a piece of Art!! (check the pictures below).

Wieden + Kennedy Portland / Vendor tours

This week ended with 2 great field trips, the first was visiting all the vendors that Nike’s brand retail department works with. It was a great opportunity to look at how some stuff gets done behind the scenes, and how some of the cool things we usually see at Nike stores get made. The interesting thing is that all these places are local and from Portland, it’s great to see larger companies supporting local firms, and at the same time these local firms growing larger and succeeding because off these businesses.

The first place we visited was TVA Architects, TVA has a lot of collaborations with Nike, one of their biggest projects was building the World Headquarters here in Beaverton. We had a small tour in their studio then sat together for an opportunity to go through their projects and specifically the works they have done for Nike.

TVA Architects

The second vendor we visited was ACME. ACME primarily focuses on building things for retail shops, museums, concerts, exhibitions and anything that needs to be built and produced. As for with Nike, they take care of all the installations, stands and displays in the store, the designs are usually passed on to them from the Experience and Store design teams. They would work on something as small as engraving a swoosh on a small piece of metal or tile, all the way to making an enormously over sized shoe made out of foam to be displayed in the windows of the Nike stores. We had a tour of their workshops and warehouses, it’s really huge, they work with all kinds of materials and apply all sorts of finishes, its really impressive to see how some difficult things get done and come to life by these experts.


We then headed to our final vendor which was Nemo. Nemo is just one of the firms Nike works with, their a design firm that collaborate with Nike on some basis on creating different things such as prints, web, setting photoshoots, and mainly any graphic design related work. Their studio was basically a huge warehouse which they had made into their own interesting place.


Our final destination for that day was visiting the Nike store in Portland with 2 of our own team members from Nike’s Store and Experience design teams. We basically walked through different parts of the store while they shared with us how and why each decision was made.

The next day we were taken on a field trip to W+K Portland. Working at Ogilvy before, which is another large ad agency, I had always heard of W+K and aware of the kind of works they did, but it was great to finally see the place, and see what their space looked like. Alongside the great work that they do, W+K is known for it’s great architecture in all its offices worldwide, it really is a piece of art, the first thing that came to my mind was that it’s a “creative factory”. After being given a formal tour of their space, we had the privilege of meeting some of their designers and creative directors, who shared their work and gave us some advice of their own about Design and working with clients. The works they shared were so diverse, things from a samurai sword handle iphone holder, to amazingly well designed prints and books for Nike. The seriousness to absolute non-serious projects was really funny, but I guess thats what creativity is all about, having fun, and being able to handle both ends of the spectrum while designing what’s mind blowing.

Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Design Interns at W+K

I’ve posted a good amount of pictures from W+K below, along with pictures from the other vendors we visited.


Sports events on campus

Apart from all the busy design work we’ve been doing, theirs been a lot of sports related events going on. On Thursday the US Olympics trials for the hammer throw was held right here at the World Headquarters on the Ronaldo fields. It was painful seeing such a beautiful field get hammered down so bad, but i’m sure it’s well worth hosting such an event! Nike Designers were also invited to paint 15 bench tables that will be taken down to Eugene Oregon, that’s where all the trials are going to be held for the US Track & Field Olympics team. Designers were free to do whatever they wanted and have as much fun with this project, and show the spirit of sport and competition through their artwork.
In celebration of the Olympics being held next month in London, Nike DNA has set up a great exhibition about past athlete achievements and some of Nike’s innovation stories. Nike has always promoted it self as a company serving the athlete, and that’s exactly what you see in such exhibits showing the success of Nike athletes through time, and always striving to push the boundaries to give the athlete that extra advantage. Many might think that Nike or other brands are just a logo behind a piece of clothing or shoes, but keeping the aesthetics aside, theirs truly a lot of innovation and thought behind each product.

Nike DNA - London 2012 Olympics Exhibition

Nike DNA - London 2012 Olympics Exhibition


Starting from next week I won’t be labeling my entries by week, but rather discuss certain topics and things i’ve been learning to make it more specific and a good learning tool to share with everyone else rather than a mix of that and a diary.


  1. Rob Lederer says:

    fantastic reflections on your experience – keep it up

  2. Alasdair says:

    Just read all three weeks so far! Brilliant folio application and an awesome insight! You’ll go far! I’m fascinated to hear more about your fantastic experience!! Keep it up! A

  3. Lacey Trujillo says:

    Hey! I love that you were able to post this. I am an industrial design student and very interested in working at Nike someday. It has been my dream to work as a footwear designer for a while now. I love Nike more than anything and it’s exciting to hear your story! Thank you!!

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