Andreas Harlow, VP Footwear & Creative Director, Nike, 2010 Spark Winner

Who are you, professionally speaking?
Currently I’m a Creative Director at Nike. I’m responsible for $4 billion global footwear business. I have a team of 26 designers. I grew up in New Zealand where I trained as an Industrial Designer. I have founded & run 2 design consultancies & have been a design educator. Of my 20 years of design experience, 13 years have been focused on  footwear design. Fortunately, I’ve worked with some great people over the years & I have received a number of design awards including Spark, ID Magazine Annual Awards & the IDSA/Newsweek ‘Best Designs of the year’ award last year.

How did you choose your design discipline?
As a child I always enjoyed building things & solving problems. I was also interested in Art. Just prior to graduating high school, I visited a university design school & realized Industrial Design was a profession that combined creativity, problem solving & making things. Later in my design career, my lifelong interest in sport helped me design sport related products.

What are some elements that make your designs distinctive?
I believe there is great value in simplicity & I think this is inherent in my more successful designs. I also focus on common sense problem solving more than styling.

Is your work international, or regionally focused?
My work is global & I travel to many countries to conduct business. My designs have been sold all over the world.

What is your ideal project or commission?
Commission: a well resourced, well run company with a strong brand that understands design & supports the creative process.

Have you worked in sustainable materials?
I have designed a number of products that address sustainability & the environment. Sustainable materials are part of this work. Sourcing, efficient/closed loop production & recycling are also important.
For an example of this work:

Who are your top 3 favorite designers?
The Eames’, Jasper Morrison, Errolson Hugh

What are you currently reading?
Andre Agassi’s autobiography

What advise can you offer to a new graduate?
Go out there & give it your best. Don’t hesitate. Action is the best way to learn. Being a successful designer isn’t easy, but there is no easy path to anything worth having. Expect a few bumps in the road on your design-career journey. Most people learn a lot from failure, so don’t be afraid of it. Don’t take praise or condemnation too seriously. You’ll get too much of each at some point.

How did you get your first paying design job?
I was asked to interview for a job while graduating from Design School. Part of the ‘interview’ was a brainstorming project which I applied a lot of focus & effort to. I believe this work got me the job because the other applicant had higher design school grades.

What do you do for inspiration?
Inspiration for me, relies on finding a mental zone where my brain can ‘join the dots’ or combine seemingly random thoughts into cohesive thoughts. Often physical activity helps me get in the zone. Going to the gym works, but backcountry snowboarding & mountain biking are more fun. Travel & observing different cultures also has a refueling effect. I often combine an interest in photography & videography with my activities & travel. I find this makes the whole experience more creative & helps me look at things in an unexpected way. Doing unexpected things helps my creativity. Monotony is the opposite.