During the summer of 2001, Mayden, a 20-year-old senior at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, was offered a design intern position at Nike. His first assignment: design shoelaces, a joke played by senior creatives on all interns. Although it was a joke to them, Mayden blew the task out of the box. “I designed a million and one ways for you to lace shoes, how you could monetize laces by selling them as a secondary item, and different fastening systems. It was one of the best experiences I ever had,” he recalls. The respect he earned paved the way for him to work on bigger projects, such as contributing his talents to the Air Jordan 16 and 17 designs.
His enthusiasm, fearless nature to present new ideas, and adding his own voice to his work landed him a job with Nike in 2002. In the years that followed, he designed Nike’s Air Monarch and, with the Jordan Brand, oversaw the design of innovative footwear platforms—cushioning, traction, upper design, footwear construction, detail execution, and material finish and material selection for Michael Jordan’s, Chris Paul’s, and Derek Jeter’s footwear lines. During his time with Jordan Brand— the second most successful footwear franchise behind the Air Force One—he helped the team’s signature lifestyle line reach $1 billion in revenues in 2009.
In his newly created role at the $20.9 billion company, Mayden has moved into a design role that includes business, strategy, and organizational design. He is responsible for design concept products—footwear, apparel, equipment—for mobile and Web experience, and for services that test their consumer relevance, technological feasibility, and strategic alignment to the various product categories at Nike. Mayden manages a hybrid team of 15 designers and oversees budgets ranging from $500,000 to $2 million, depending on the project.
Designing a shoe is just part of the process, says Mayden. In following Nike’s design mantra, “body led, data informed,” designers at Nike use ethnographical studies to understand user behavior and embed sensors in products wirelessly tethered to such devices as the iPad, iPod, or Nike wristbands where data is captured and delivered to the Nike Plus website. It allows consumers to record their goals and progress, and it allows Nike designers to deliver a more personalized product.
“We’re moving away from just delivering a shoe and then that’s the end of the conversation. We’re building a service-based model so that once you buy our product, that’s when the true experience begins.”