Nike Taps Into Future Design Talent

Team Nike Hydralight, from left, Amber Jepsen, Lara Schaefer and Emily Arnaut pitch Nike executives on their idea for wired competition jerseys.

For casual surfing fans, it’s hard to distinguish individual athletes in the line up and keep abreast of their standings from every heat.

That may well change if the invention of three Laguna College of Art and Design students proves ready for commercialization.

Amber Jepson, Emily Arnaut and Lara Schaefer devised illuminated jerseys they call Nike Hydralights that can display an athlete’s standing while still in the water. The uniform will reveal a competitor’s name and number and signal their ranking through changing and pulsating colors, linked by a wireless system. Fans can access the data entered by judges via their own digital applications. “This could help surfing become an Olympic sport at last,” Schaefer said.

The three-woman team, as well as four other student teams, pitched their design ideas last week to a trio of visiting Nike executives from Portland, Ore. Their class assignment was to devise concepts to turn real-time sports into an all-encompassing experience via digital media.

LCAD is one of four design schools chosen by Nike Chief Executive Mark Parker for the Nike Sponsored Studio, a pilot program

Team Nike Track It, from left, Matt Dawson, Ben Fong, Charlene Chand and Chay Land.

tasking students to come up with cutting-edge action sports design concepts, according to a company spokesman.

The Laguna campus captured attention two years ago after initiating an action sports design program featuring a curriculum designed to train students for jobs in the growing number of action-sports companies in Southern California.

Five teams from Catharin Eure’s graphic design-visual communication class described ideas for potential use in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to Howard Lichter, Nike’s global director of creative outreach; Josh Moore, manager of global brand Innovation; and Byron Merrit, creative director of global brand innovation.

Except for Merrit, they sported thick-rimmed glasses and buzz haircuts, rumpled gray shirts and pants. They declined to identify the other chosen schools, saying only that three are in the U.S. and one in the United Kingdom, or their criteria for selection.

They did, however, responded encouragingly to the student presentations, offering mild and constructive critiques.

Competition was stiff.

The team composed of Charlene Chand, Matt Dawson, Chay Land and Ben Fong made a dramatic entry as Fong rode into the room clad in red and white BMX racing gear, impersonating well-known racer Jimmie Johnson, aka Chimichanga. Their Nike Track allows aspiring BMX racers to manage their training. Statistics embedded in handlebars, phone apps and GPS technology help athletes define weak spots and create training workouts. The gist of their video, filmed at the BMX track in Orange, showed how a race is decided in 45 seconds.

The team of Nika Maria Banzuela, Amanda Vidad, Daniel Wong and Randy Lopez devised a method to capture and convert the audience atmosphere in a way that could be digitally transferred to spur on athletes or teams or light up stadiums.

In the end, the Nike men chose Emily Smith, Courtney George, Natalie Dye and Johnny Bisaha as the day’s winner for Nike Skate Tour, their concept of connecting the skateboarding community world-wide. Aided by electronic maps and digital apps, skaters could follow their faves, vote on new ones and converge en mass onto places like Rio. Their seamless presentation of video support materials earned them each a pair of customized Nikes. “We want to connect the skating community world-wide, gain the sport Olympic recognition but still keep it street-authentic,” said George.

By day’s end only one suspense remained: Who would be the one to receive the coveted paid summer internship at Nike headquarters.

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