Admittedly, I met up with Niek Pulles (Material Designer, Fuel Footwear Innovation Fuel Footwear) in London a few months ago where he tried share the story of ISPA. It took me a while to fully comprehend the full picture, but after seeing some of the recent ISPA product and reading this latest article on 032c, it’s become quite clear – This is a collection of products designed for everyday athletes, specifically ones that spend a large amount of time in urban environments. Urban survivalists. Environments that offer multiple performance challenges, from rapidly changing climates and tranportation issues to pollution and overcrowding.
You can see some of the interview below, where they talk about everything from the teams ISPA design approach, to the challenges of “scavanging” while remaining fresh and original (for the full interview, head here).
032c: ISPA is a response to the challenges of the built environment: an urban terrain. How does this change your considerations compared to designing for particular athletes or sports? Was there a pivotal occurrence or built landscape that was a catalyst for ISPA?
Nate Jobe: Our team focuses primarily on innovation for what you might call regular life — creating products that serve us all day. Like with everything at Nike, we solve for discrete problems shared by athletes, so our first step with ISPA was to identify an athlete. For the project, we chose big city dwellers. We consider them unique athletes. Our research shows that some of them are commuting up to 10 miles a day to work and are exposed to all sorts of environmental elements. Some stay out of the house from 8am to 3am – on their feet! Using the same philosophies and techniques used for performance innovation, we went about addressing their needs.
Niek Pulles: ISPA is not a collection. It’s a design philosophy. We came up with the concept through an ethos: Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, and Adapt. It’s a reaction and visual response to what’s happening in the urban environment, along with the evolution and development of the daily commute. It’s also loosely predicated on the idea of urban survival. Subjects like climate change, air and data pollution, growing cities, and shifts in transportation definitely functioned as an engine for ISPA.
Shamees Aden: Problem-solving for athletes or a sporting event presents a specific set of performance requirements, however you can draw some common threads when problem-solving for the daily commuter. Coupled with the challenges of designing products that actually speak to and solve problems for these “athletes” living in emerging mega cities that are subject to unexpected changes of weather and terrain, was the catalyst for ISPA.
Niek Pulles: The quote “If you have a body, you are an athlete” [from Nike founder Bill Bowerman] is always in the back of our minds.
032c: Has the built environment become a greater challenge over the years, requiring targeted footwear and gear?
Nate Jobe: A lot of our existing Nike shoes already solve problems for everyday life in global big cities. But when we started considering dramatic themes or extremes — unexpected changes of weather, circumstance, environment, and activities — we found a much sharper opportunity to design products that realized clearer intent.
Darryl Matthews: Our landscapes are rapidly changing and so is our mentality – the way we perceive our everyday lives. The art of living is becoming more ad-hoc. We tackle problems at once. We wanted to express this approach by using the materials and components at hand, rather than waiting for the perfect moment or “proper” approach.
Niek Pulles: It’s interesting to see how the built environment inspires the color and the design team too: looking at new patterns and material constructions, but also looking into more sustainable ways of using and developing materials for more extreme situations.
For the full interview, head here.
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