My Life as a Nike Shoe Designer

My passion for designing Nike shoes started around junior high. I remember browsing the shoe stores at the mall along with the pages of my Eastbay magazine to find just the right pair of Nikes. There were plenty of great options to choose from, but sometimes what I had in mind simply didn’t exist. So, I started sketching out my ideas.

Concept for the Nike Sabre (circa 1994)
Concept for the Nike Sabre (circa 1994)

Sharing my Designs

When my dad saw my drawings, he encouraged me to send them to Nike. Ha. Send them to Nike. Oh how the world was different then. There was no social media, no @Nike, and no #Nike through which I could share my creations. Email didn’t even exist, so for me to send something to Nike meant I had to do some work.

First, I had to make color copies of my designs. Then, I had to find an address for Nike. Finally, I had to write a letter and package everything up as neatly as possible to look somewhat professional.

Instagram, where were you when I needed you?

My letter to Nike
My letter to Nike

The extra work didn’t stop me. I made those color copies, found an address for Nike, wrote a friendly letter, and sent my package through the mail. The real mail.

Seven days later, Nike responded.

Rejection

Letter from Nike Customer Services
Letter from Nike Customer Services

The letter I received back was from Nike Consumer Services and it contained several interesting facts:

  1. Nike employs a full-time team of top researchers and product designers who continuously work (even when they sleep) to improve the performance and design of Nike products.
  2. Nike receives a large number of ideas from its consumers.
  3. Nike limits its review of ideas to those that are patented, patented pending, or have proof of having filed with the U.S. Patent Offices Document Disclosure Program.

Nike Consumer Services also returned my artwork so I could “share my creativity with family and friends.”

I’m not sure if it was the rejection or just me maturing, but I stopped sketching shoe ideas shortly after this experience. It seemed my life as a Nike shoe designer was over.

Or was it?

A New Chapter

Just recently I was in the market for a new pair of Nikes. I was looking for something rather specific, so I tried Zappos. No luck. I tried Amazon. No luck. I looked at the mall. No luck. I was patient with my search, but also stupid. I never thought to look on Nike.com.

When I finally did visit Nike’s website, I discovered something magical: NIKEiD. It’s a collection of shoes that you can customize. It’s not the same as completely designing your own shoe, but it’s easy and fun.

Doug Burgett's customized Nike running shoes
Customized Nike running shoes

I started with running shoes since I do run. But then I quickly ventured into other sports that I don’t play, like baseball. I asked myself, if I were a Cub what shoes would I wear?  And then BAM. I made these…

Doug Burgett's customized, Chicago Cubs inspired Nike baseball shoes
Customized Chicago Cubs inspired Nike baseball shoes

Oh the joy of being a Nike shoe designer again.

Blogging Experiments

What you’re seeing now is the fifth version of my personal blog. Each previous iteration was essentially an experiment that led to the next. All versions except number four have been archived and are no longer available for public viewing, but below I’ve included a screenshot and some information for each. I am doing this for two reasons. One, I simply wish to document what I’ve learned throughout this process. Two, I think it’s a good lead for version five. Hopefully you can find your own takeaway or inspiration within this history as well.

Version One (2009)

Doug Burgett blog number 1
Doug Burgett blog version one

In many ways I’ve come full circle from version one to version five. My first blog was more or less a blog in the traditional sense. It included posts on a variety of topics, some personal and some professional but all written in first person. I realized at some point a majority of the posts were best suited for a private journal. This prompted me to journal more often and formulate a better definition of what I considered blog-worthy content.

Version Two (2010)

Doug Burgett blog number two
Doug Burgett blog version two

As I developed version two I fell in love with several blogs that had unique page layouts for each post, so I decided to take this route with my presentation layer. The result was great, but each post was extremely time-consuming and I quickly realized this was an unsustainable approach for me. I learned how to produce better articles through this experiment, but the real benefit was learning how far I could push a custom WordPress template.

Version Three (2011)

Doug Burgett blog number three
Doug Burgett blog version three

After version two my primary interest was to push WordPress customization further, so for version three I created a flexible template that functioned like a blank canvas and decided to do away with writing articles. The navigation was eliminated forcing users through an archive listing to find content. The entire project was quite abstract and I did away with it because I missed a more traditional environment to share ideas and thoughts. This experiment will most likely influence the direction I take my experimental art site, Cool Groovy Funk, which is currently under development.

Version Four (2013-2016)

Doug Burgett blog number four
Doug Burgett blog version four

Seeking a more traditional environment for sharing ideas I decided to embrace a standard WordPress template and force myself to focus on content. It worked. I was very pleased with the frequency and quality of my posts in version four. However, over time I found myself sharing this information through Twitter instead of my blog. At that point I realized I was mostly micro-blogging, a term defined by a limited character length. I want to write and I want a blog that is designed to showcase the written word.

Which brings me to…

Version Five (2017-?)

Once again I’m back to seeking that traditional blog space, but this time I’m embracing long-form writing.  It will be interesting to see where this version takes me, but if I had to guess I would say to blog version six.