Nike Considered Interview
Over a year later, Considered is moving to a new home within nike. We caught up with Bob Mervar [design director ACG] and Peter Fogg [nike senior designer] to discuss their two new products - the 'Soaker' and 'Water cat'.
Can you give us a little background with your involvement in Considered? At what point did you two guys pick it up?
BOB - We actually picked Considered up pretty recently in ACG (All Conditions Gear). It started with Richard Clarke and Tinker Hatfield, Steve McDonald and Mike Aveni working with the Innovation Kitchen. It was decided that Considered was an appropriate technology and mindset for the ACG range.
I can see a certain logic to moving it into ACG.
BOB - Yeah, we’re looking at a younger Considered mindset. We want to target those who are more focused on having fun in the outdoors and doing things in a group with a little bit more irreverence and not such a competitive type. In Spring 2007 we did roughly one third to one half of the ACG line with the Considered approach and we are currently in the midst of designing spring and summer 2008, and by then it will be 100% Considered for ACG
Whoa! I didn’t expect that, I imagined you’d just go with a few pieces...
PETER - We're doing it across the entire line! It’s a long process. It's been fun to modify all the products that have been done already but the trick to it is to make the product perform within the Considered approach. It has to go through a different thought process and testing, so it takes more time and we have to work a little harder.
Is there also pressure to make Considered a success at retail by having to work on the design to the point where it's appealing over sucess on just the merit of the concept?
BOB - No matter what, people have to wanna pick it up and try it on. But it has to work. We don’t think that Considered alone is enough to sell the product. If people can buy a product that works for what they need it to do, and it looks cool, and it's Considered as well, that's even better!
Do people understand what you are trying to do?
BOB - We have talked to some retailers about the first line of Considered and the floor staff told us that they loved the concept, but that the product had to work so they could tell the whole story to their consumers.
That’s fair enough, they don’t wanna sacrifice performance over the environment. Lets talk about the Water Cat. It wasn't what I expecting to see - I think you knew that as well.
PETER - Yeah, it’s pretty unusual.
For some reason it reminded me of the Rift, i was a bit stunned when i saw that as well. you can immediately grasp what its about but how does it work? It's a really intriguing piece of design.
PETER - Some people have looked at it and don't even know what it’s for.
It’s like a shoe pretending to be a bag you can carry your groceries home in….
PETER - The initial inspiration came from work that Mike Aveni was doing. He was weaving uppers with webbing and removing bits of material to reduce weight off the shoes. This inspired me to try and design the Water Cat with just the skeleton strips of material as you can see.
That design struck me as a shoe that almost couldn’t be sketched, like you’d have to create it as a 3D object on a computer?
PETER - Really? Actually that shoe did start out from little sketches. Then we put it in the computer and did the rendering. From there the process is pretty similar to other shoes, until eventually they make a 3D digital file of the tooling. There were many changes along the way, probably more than any other shoe that I have worked on I think.
Well it looks like the perfect shoe for hiking where water is involved. It’s super light and you can just peel them off and stuff them in your bag… Do you think that's as far as you can take it. How much less can you get into the construction?
PETER - It’s kinda nice how it can collapse. You could pack it in your backpack pretty easily. But I think we could go even more minimal. That one has got quite a bit of ankle, heel and toe protection on it. That's the way we wanted it. But you can definitely see that it you wanted to start taking parts off, I think it would still be a viable product.
I was interested to see bamboo in one of your last shoes, are you looking at other natural materials?
PETER - Bamboo is definitely one of them, but also a lot of recycled materials. We take a lot of materials that go into a shoe and grind it all up kinda like paper. We have a designer that's working on some things in that area. And also we take a lot of scraps and patch them together and come up with some shoes that have sort of a random appearance….
Your other new shoe is the Soaker, looking very nice in red and black. how does it fit into ACG? Is Soaker also a wet weather shoe?
BOB - First off, I’ll have to tell you that I am speaking about the Soaker on behalf of the designer, Matt Rask, who was not available for this interview. The Soaker fits into ACG as a shoe for water related activities such as rafting, kayaking, boating etc and it is Considered. We wanted to design a shoe that people could kick around in every day and also to create something with functional cues for use in water. Our goal in ACG is to keep product simple and friendly, so the technical attributes of this shoe are pretty subtle at first glance.
But when you look closer, you can see a very breathable mesh that also allows water to easily go right through it. You’ll notice the three little vent holes on the sides of the mid sole. Those are port holes that allow the water that comes into the shoe to drain right back out of the mid sole. There are little canals designed into the interior of the cup sole that channel water out through the port holes. And the outsole has Nike waffles which provide great traction on a variety of surfaces.
How is considered applied to the Soaker?
bob As you know, one of the goals of Considered is to reduce waste. So, with the Soaker, we were able to reduce layers of material, thereby reducing waste. It has a single layer mesh upper, which reduces waste in the manufacturing process. The more layers the more tooling dies, the more scraps, the more pollution associated with shipping materials etc. The Soaker also has snap together tooling that is sewn to the upper, which reduces the use of solvent based adhesives. And the outsole is made from regrind. Overall, there aren’t very many parts in this shoe. At the end of the day, it takes the entire triad team, marketing, development and design to make all the ‘considerations’ on a product.
It’s quite a handsome and practical looking unit, much less experimental than some of the other models. Do you feel like you’ve got the Considered element to a point where it’s almost invisible to the untrained consumer?
BOB - Thanks on behalf of our team. It’s not always obvious at first what ‘considerations’ were made on each product. That a shoe looks Considered is not necessarily the main goal on each ACG shoe. We look at the consumer we are designing the shoe for first, what their needs are, and then we add Considered thinking from there. It has to work for people and it has to look good. With the Soaker, team members found some information on the web about early guides using Jack Purcells and Converse All Stars for water shoes. Those shoes had built in drainage, toe protection, and a friendly silhouette that almost everyone likes today. So we took that as part of our inspiration.
And what’s with the 0.44 sticky rubber tag? is that really a new development?
BOB - Glad you asked that. As we started rethinking ACG, we took a look at the technical call-outs on ACG product and decided that generally they weren’t clear enough for consumers to understand the benefits. In the past, it might have said only 0.44, which to the consumer, was just a number on the out sole. So 0.44 as a rubber compound is not a new development, but calling out “0.44 sticky rubber” is. In other words, we want the consumer to understand in very simple terms, that this product has sticky rubber and sticky rubber will improve traction. We also use, “0.41 toughest rubber” and “0.47 stickiest rubber” on our ACG products, depending on the consumer focus.
Is the soaker also fully recyclable?
BOB -Our focus on the Soaker from a Considered stand point was to reduce waste in manufacturing, and reduce solvent-based adhesives. If we do that, we are moving in the right direction for the environment. And as the recycling infrastructure evolves we hope to do more and more.
I also wanted to ask about the original mowabb that was designed with the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy. was that bit of a premonition of Considered being applied to ACG?
PETER - We weren't here when that was designed so we don't know for sure.
BOB - One thing I can say is when you build a shoe in that way with a shell/booty construction, you are simplifying the way it’s made. It doesn't have as much foam and little pieces, its just a booty and a shell and then a midsole and outsole. And that thinking is the Considered philosophy because it's such a simple shoe. We look at the components and we ask how much of this stuff can we take out? So when I think of the Mowabb that's when I think about a way of building shoes without too many parts and that's definitely the way we're headed.
I heard a rumour that the new jordan might have some considered thinking integrated into it.
PETER - That's what we hear too! But as far as we know, it’s only a rumour!
I’m surprised you admitted to it. normally it’s a ‘NO COMMENT!!’
I haven't seen it, so I don't really know…
Good luck with the new considered range.