Jul 10, 2012

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The Nike Internship, week 4

This is post part of a weekly blog I’m doing on my 12 week Design Internship program at Nike, sharing my experiences, events happening, and all the excitement! This week’s highlights where 2 great talks by great and experienced people at Nike, here it goes:

The Story About Story

This week we were given a great workshop about the art of story telling by Dennie Wendt, a Senior Copywriter at Nike, called “The Story About Story”.

Dennie gave us a 2 day workshop discussing the importance of a story, things to look out for, and different techniques overall. It was a real insightful workshop with a lot to walk away with.

Denny Wendt; Senior Copywriter at Nike

As a Designer, or any individual in any other discipline, we tend to present our work and projects to our colleagues or clients. Presenting good work is just part of a great presentation, the second part relies heavily on your ability of storytelling, and you might sometimes be presenting the work of others which puts more responsibility on your shoulders.

To start with this is a great video that sums everything up for you about stories and storytelling:

The topics discussed in our workshop today mainly focus on 2 things:

1- The power of story within design.

2- How that translates into your presentation.

A story can make a product much better and stronger, the better the stories the better people could understand and appreciate it. As Ken Kessey says “To hell with the facts, we need stories.” It’s the stories that create that personal connection with the audience, and puts reason and thought behind your design to back it up, leaving them with no questions or uncertainties, and only left with appreciation. So basically have the story first, and hang the facts on it later. Nevertheless though, both are important, and go hand in hand, except it’s that they complement one another. It’s as if the facts are the notes, and stories are the song that plays.

We should all knock our audiences with the greatest, a great story means business! I personally experienced something of this sort when I interned at Ogilvy in Bahrain in 2008. We had a client meeting at the F1 International Circuit to present some of the ads and ideas we had been working on, so I went along with my Creative Director, Tony Peck, who’s actually one of the most creative people I’ve worked with. We were trying to pitch this idea of three kinds of give away gift boxes for the fans, the content of the box and the way the box was designed was kind of unique, and we were worried they would just like to go with the old fashion way of making them to save up on money and avoid any risks. Tony had a great story for every idea and concept we presented, and what was more important was that he made every story personal and about himself, somehow relate it to an experience he had when he was back in Australia. Once we were done with that meeting the client had signed on all the ideas with a big smile. A story is truly the core to the human experience in a presentation.

Great stories are one thing, but telling them is another thing to look out for, the way you sequence the events should knock the other person off. For example, a good way to look at this is, if someone has been in a coma and had no idea what had happened in the NBA Playoffs, how would you tell them what happened? You would probably not start by talking about the first rounds and the players that got injured, but you would start off by saying who won the championship, which is the highlight of the story! You would then move on to the small details of what things lead to that big moment.

William Staton is a great storyteller, he says “Stories are who we are”. I recommend you check out his Ted Talk below:

We all love stories, and telling them is way much harder then listening to them. Be a great story teller that is always ready to tell a story about anything, and based on how the audience wants to hear it. If you’re audience doesn’t get it, then you should know it’s bad. You should keep the excitement on throughout the whole experience, make people care and want to listen to what you have to say.

John Carter, one of the latest films made by Disney was written by one of the best storytellers of our time, but it has been perceived very badly and lost millions of dollars from this movie. The main problem why people where disapointed and felt like they had wasted their time and money, was that they had no clue what the story was about. The story was about a million things and had no real target audience, which just left people extremely confused and disappointed. What could have been a pleasurable experience turned into a very unpleasant one. Therefore, beware of what your story is about, and who and what you are addressing.

Finally, if you have an idea, product, or story, be as open as you can to people’s advice and input, but don’t always do what they want to be done. Their ideas might be great and relevant, but that’s just not what you want or what you’re looking for. Sometimes great ideas which you feel a personal connection could get totally off-track because you keep changing your idea based on others inputs. We sometimes feel that changing things up could avoid that sort of criticism when it’s time to present, but that’s not true, because you can’t please everybody. But if you are please by your work then even the presentation and storytelling process would be much stronger.

These were probably the highlights from the workshop along with the videos that pretty much cover all the exciting stuff, but not to worry, here’s a summary summing everything up:

  1. Storytelling is hard.
  2. Beware of the story about your story (Disney’s John Carter example).
  3. You’re making art, own the idea, be in love with your work.
  4. Even the big storytellers could fail sometimes, don’t let that stop you.
  5. Don’t let your story get Frankensteined. Don’t let others change it up with their own ideas.
  6. If you become a great storyteller, you will be unstoppable.
  7. Make them care. Your audience is the center of your story. Know whether you’re moving them out of their comfort zone or reinforcing their core beleifs. Then tell your story as you can, and with the authenticity and passion of someone talking to a group of friends.
  8. Make them get it. Reveal what already exists within the design, object, or product. Reveal it in a logical sequence. You’re already to Step 2 in the making-them-care process. Don’t reduce youre chances of success by being confusing hoping they get it. Demonstrate your own genius. Express your own expertise.
  9. Make them yours. Deliver on the promise, win them over. Wrap it up simply that anyone in the room could give your presentation to someone else.
  10. Great stories need 3 things:

Logic – Know when your story comes from and make it simple.

Feeling – Tell it with passion, don’t bore people.

Payoff – Make your point painfully clear. The end of your story should be like the end of a closing argument in Law & Order.

I personally benefited a lot from this workshop and I hope I was able to bring across the things I learned as clearly as possible, I hope I did a good job in telling my story :) .


Lessons on Leadership

This week we also got an opportunity to meet up with Jason Carter Mayden, Director of Digital Innovation at Nike. Jason had lots of great stories and moments from his life which he shared with us. His talk was mainly about advice on becoming a great leader, pursuing our dreams, and reaching our potential. He had broken his ideas into 7 lessons, each with a story to go with, and here they are:

Jason Carter Mayden; Director of Digital Innovation at Nike

1. Learn to be a catalyst rather than a crutch.

Take action and don’t expect great things to just happen to you, don’t expect dreams to just come true. Take the initiative of contacting people, companies, and mainly not being shy or giving up one what you want!

2. Dare to dream out loud, tell people about your dreams.

Let people know what you want, don’t be afraid to dream and tell others about it. If people know what you want, that could maybe one day help you achieve that dream through them or a connection they might have.

3. “No” can often be disguised as a slow “Yes”.

Jason shared the same dream most students and interns who are into sports have today, and that was to design for a company like Nike. He tried applying over and over for almost 3 years, and he was rejected every year. Each of those rejections though made the HR person know him and see how bad he wants this, as well as his progress and determination. Therefore, all those “no’s” and rejections actually lead to that “Yes” at the end. So in short, never loose enthusiasm, it will only make you loose your dreams and slow you down.

4. Stay ready.

Always be prepared for everything, be on top of things. Have your portfolio up to date, look your best, and be at your best, as you never know what could come up. Jason shared his story from his first day of his internship when he was lost and trying to find the building he was supposed to work in, and guess what, he ended up in an elevator with Michael Jordan. He obviously had very short time in that elevator and was extremely nervous, he just had to say the right things and act quick to cease this great opportunity. Many years from then, Jason and Michael are close friends, and which it has obviously opened many doors for him.

5. Ignore the top of the iceberg “You want me to design what?”

Don’t get too caught up in trying to make the next new big innovation, and don’t undermine a small task that’s given to you. Small tasks can often make you feel useless and unimportant, but in fact, it is your role as a passionate designer to show that passion through your work, and sometimes, those small tasks and small steps can actually become the next big innovation. It’s all about your attitude and how devoted you are to the project, hard work always shows, and pays off, no matter what your working on! Any task is an opportunity.

6. Grow where you planted.

Once you are happy and settled where you are, try to stay focused and grow from there. Don’t think about moving around, switching companies or moving to other places. Once your planted you can grow much faster and achieve much more, all that in a place where you love to be!

7. Your ambition should always match your impact.


See you all with a new post next week, with more interesting talks and events to cover!

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve seen a video of Jason Mayden on YouTube and he is really inspiring. Hope everything worked out in your internship!

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