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.