Nike, Inc, headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, is one of the world's largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel and a major manufacturer of sports equipment. Paul Francis is the Senior Director of Footwear Innovation, and has been a key component to some of the biggest footwear releases over the years.
Three questions with Paul Francis:
How much of a role do the aesthetics of a sneaker (relative to the technological components) matter when designing?
Chemicals, materials and emotions are tied into sport and sportswear. Most importantly, however, is the idea of confidence. We're taking this idea and truly applying it to everything we do here. Athletes are constantly playing based on levels of confidence. There is a look good, feel good aspect that results in better performance too. There's also certainly psychology involved in the design and creation of our footwear. We want to build all of these components together to create one fluid shoe that helps our athletes in mind and body. Also, every part of our sneakers serve a specific purpose -- every stitch, every line, every angle. They serve a functional purpose which result in a confidence that is built through knowing this is a premium product that will allow you to perform to your highest potential. Two decades ago, certain stitching may have been purely for aesthetic reasons, but today that is not the case.
Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?
Yes, this happens all the time. A really creative person can't walk down the street without finding inspiration in something. If you put them in inspirational places, they will come up with something. There isn't an 'off' button for that. These ideas come from everywhere -- they come from walking down the street to working outside the office. We also have many experts on the team from many different background. For instance, some of our team comes from a science and medical background, others are from more of a high fashion background. When all of these people come together there are so many different levels of inspiration and expertise that allow us to create and design our amazing footwear and equipment.
What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?
At Nike, we don't face a lot of the traditional challenges most companies encounter. Negativity is the first thing that comes to mind, and we don't have any of that on our team. Inspiration and positivity is huge, and we have so much talent here that allows others to be excellent. People get excited here, and we don't use our time to worry about challenges -- we just get the job done. We know we have athletes to serve and they depend on us. We have an all-star team that works together to accomplish these tasks, so it's an overall positive experience here at Nike!