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Industrial Design Students Collaborate with Nike for Olympic Product Designs

Students in Jim Shook’s senior product design class have a shot at designing products for the 2012 Olympics thanks to an innovative collaboration with Nike.  The partnership not only gives these School of Industrial Design students a chance at international acclaim, they’re also getting the opportunity to gain real-world experience designing for one of the top names in sporting goods. 

Nike asked the students to design products for two new sports that will be added for the 2012 Olympic Games – Ultra Marathon Trail Running and Ultra Mountain Bike Racing.  The products were to be designed to be worn by the athletes during the event and to ensure that their hydration and nutrition needs were met throughout. 

Both of the new events are extreme sports covering more than 100 miles of rugged terrain.  The intense demands on the athletes require products that are uniquely tailored to  the task.  As part of the class project, students researched the events to ensure they created designs that would be most beneficial to the athletes.  They contacted potential Olympics participants, one of whom visited the class to answer students’ questions about how they would use the products. 
Each student was urged to come up with a story about their design and how it fit the needs of the athlete.  The “story approach” gives more focus and clarity to the challenge.  It enables the students to create a solution that satisfies the technical requirements for the product, but also touches upon the participant’s emotional connection with the activity.  “The result of this story approach to design is that you get a more compelling result.  It’s not just the average design for the average use,” Jim said.

In the past, he said that industrial designers focused on creating designs that would attract the most people.  The current trend is to focus more on an individual story or lifestyle and design for that user’s experience.  One student’s background story focuses on how the athletes need to plan their entire race so that they have expended all of their energy at the end of the 100-mile race, but not until then.  He is designing a product that functions similarly and will be “used up” at the end of the race.

The student designs are a great reflection of the intense work that leads up to the finished product.  For the final project, each student presents a summary of their research and design process in addition to the sketches and models that culminated in the final design. 

The right one just may make it into the Olympics.  Nike will review the final designs and, if one looks like a winner, it will be developed for possible use in the 2012 Olympic Games.


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