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Making: Nike

The choices we make as designers have wider consequences. In particular our material decisions dictate many of the aesthetic, performance, cost and sustainability attributes of a product. Knowing this, Nike came to us with a question – how do we de-couple successful design from the degradation of nature?  Their identified areas of concern included: chemistry, energy and greenhouse gas intensity, water and land intensity, and physical waste.

The Sustainable Business and Innovation team at Nike  spent eight years developing the Materials Sustainability Index (NMSI). This extensive data set presents an amazing opportunity to drive industry change when integrated into design language and practice. We set out together to create conditions for osmosis to take place between technology, data and the human skills of creativity, co-operation and discovery.

We brought together designers, scientists, coders and students to hack the material system. Using problem-based techniques and the NMSI data, we developed, tested and launched a digital tool that drives innovation, reforms design thinking, and informs better choices for a better world. The first version of the Making app was launched in July 2013 and you can download it here

Nike hackathon

Images from Nike Hackathon

The CSF team and four of the future thinking designers from the London Style project and MA Fashion and the Environment (Christopher RaeburnMatthew MillerMichelle Lowe Holder and Alina Moat) take part in a week long exploration of the materials system at Nike HQ in Portland Oregon. The week culminates in a two-day hackathon bringing together fashion and product designers with software developers to begin the job of making NMSI data accessible to the design community. The insights from the hackathon lead to the development of a prototype app.

LCF callout

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Nike need a group of creative and inquisitive young designers and communicators to test the prototype Making app. CSF work closely with a number of course directors at LCF to instigate a landmark cross college collaboration, bringing together the schools of design, management and communication. 32 of the best graduating students are selected from over 300 applicants to take part in this phase of the project.


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The 32 selected participants are split into 8 multidisciplinary teams. CSF and Nike develop a design brief centred around the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics. At an ideation workshop in London, the teams are introduced to the project and the prototype app by Dave Cobban (Consumer Mobilization Director) and Howard Lichter (Global Director – Creative Outreach). The workshop marks the start of a two month research and concept development process, during which each team is mentored by one of the designers who took part in the hackathon at Nike HQ.


Images from Nike project briefing

The eight teams come together for a two-week intensive design incubator. Each team works with the prototype Making app, to develop their concept and related design work.  CSF and the mentors along with LCF staff and technicians guide and support the process. At the end of the two weeks each team presents their final work to a panel from Nike including John Burlo (Design Director, Men’s Apparel Nike NSW), Jo Taylor (Communications Director, Western Europe) and Andy Walker (Global Creative Director, Brand Design). Selected work will be used to promote and showcase the ‘Makers Movement’ to press and the wider industry.

Final work

Images by Kerry Dean

Based on feedback from the Nike panel, each team works with CSF and the LCF technicians to create a final look and a short book, illustrating their research, concept and approach to sustainable innovation. 28 key insights emerge from the beta testing process providing the intelligence and creative input to rethink and redesign the Making app.

Launch 2020

Image by Alex McIntosh

One representative from each team is invited to accompany members of CSF and the mentors to Portland for the Launch 2020 summit, where their work forms the centrepiece of an exhibition showcasing global sustainable innovations. The summit brings together one hundred and fifty thought leaders from fashion brands, garment manufacturers, chemical companies, NGOs and universities to tackle the challenges that face our industry and come up with viable solutions.

Making app

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CSF and Nike hold a joint event at the 1948 store in Shoreditch to launch the first version of the Making app. Over the course of a day the app is showcased to the press, introduced to students from across Europe and presented to a select group of design and political influencers. The structure of the day gives recognition to the multitude of players who have a role to play in building a sustainable materials movement that can grow and flourish.

The work continues through research and educational development.

Images by Katy Davies