We Interview Nike Designer Magnhild Disington
Meet one of the leading ladies behind Nikes’s iconic The 1 Reimagined Project.
The Air Force 1 and Air Jordan have become a synonymous part of Nike’s culture. As two of the most significant sneakers in the brands history, over the years they have been the focal point of radical interpretations by creatives in the fashion/ pop-culture space such as Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott.
Continuing the exploration of the classic Nike models, the 1’s have been reinvented yet again in The 1 Reimagined Project. Led by Georgina James, the design team included 14 women who were set the challenge of creating a timeless collection. Their brief: “Make some cool shit.” Their time frame from brief to final design: Two weeks.
Materials Design Director, Magnhild Disington, is one of the leading ladies behind Nike’s The 1 Reimagined project. Disington was able to use her unique eye for detail by interpreting the timelessness of the Air Force DNA into the Jester through amazing quality materials. Despite the time-frame, the design team were able to create a 10-piece collection of sneakers, all interlinked with their designs based on the classic 1s, whilst inheriting individual personas.
In the aftermath of the release, we spoke with Magnhild Disington at Berlin’s annual Bread&&Butter Festival to find out more about the sneaker worlds relationship with femininity and the unique concept behind The 1 Reimagined Project.
What was the brief for this project?
The brief was fairly straight forward; Take the Air Force 1 and
Air Jordan 1 - and reimagine it in 10 unique ways.
We were able to take a design led project and come up with our own point of view to create new icons for her while elevating the everyday.
What stood out to you about this exceptional project, what exactly made it a success?
The fact that we were 14 curious design individuals working as one. Through that we were able to harness our creative genius and create unique products designed for women, by women.
Early on we wanted to make sure we were getting all her needs covered, so she could leave in the morning and be ready for anything life throws at her.
This helped guide our expression as we worked on these two iconic shoes to balance a collection of 10 new silhouettes. We were able to not only come up with radical ideas but edited relentlessly to design one cohesive collection with each shoe having a unique character.
Where did the idea for the 5 characters for the shoes come from?
We were inspired by the human archetypes; and narrowed the selection from the 12 traditional ones to five sharp personas we felt we could best design around: The Sage, The Lover, The Jester, The Explorer, The Rebel.
The characters were all so different with very clear persona that inspired and lead us to the final execution. We devoted a lot of time coming up with a collective image and mood that helped guide us through the process. We wanted to create products that elevated the everyday, so we talked a lot about what context we could see people wearing the shoes. We imagined that The Sage would be a perfect work to vernissage shoe, while The Lover would be something you wanted to slip on Sunday morning when you walked to your favorite coffee shop. The Rebel would be for the occasions where you wanted to stand out, while The Jester is that little bit of spice in your routine.
How did you come to the Jester persona and how would you describe it?
The Jester is a fine balance when you are trying to make something simple but humorous. Just as much as we discussed what the Jester persona is, we also spent a lot of time debating what it was not, we didn’t want it to become too gimmicky or juvenile, but more fun and sharp.
In the end we landed on a balanced expression that doesn’t look like it is trying too hard. I think we successfully created a funny mischievous expression that throws you off a bit at first sight. “Wait? What? Ah!” And then you get it!
What makes iconic sneakers like the Air Force 1 stand the test of time as opposed to fading away after a while?
The timelessness of it. Perfect proportions, simple approachable materials and colors.
As a color and material designer, it is the perfect canvas and it can handle so many executions because the core is so strong and simple. Every panel has enough real-estate that you can play with and it visually changes the proportion of the shoe
How have you paid homage to femininity within the design?
Designing for female consumers is more liberating! Women have a more open-minded approach to the world of sneakers.
How did the team of designers complement each other, coming from their different design backgrounds and expertise?
Collaboration is the lifeblood of Nike. Nothing is ever done by one individual and you always rely on your teammates for help, support and a different point of view. Having an international crew of designers from US, Japan, UK, France, Belgium, Norway and Korea also means that you have to be more precise in your expressions and be ready to explain the meaning of a word, or an obscure cult reference from the 90’s. It challenges you to see through other people’s perspectives and takes you to a place you could not have imagined. This is why diversity is integral to our team.
What was your favorite moment in the design process?
I personally enjoyed spending time being creative and playful with the team. We were fortunate enough to go to London for a week where we had full focus on the project and were able to dig really deep. Not being distracted or asked to help out on other projects felt like a design luxury and was instrumental in the fast execution of this project.
Why do you think it’s important for brands to encourage more female designers, especially during this moment in time?
I think it’s incredibly important to highlight female designers, or any underrepresented group in design as it is an important part of growth. A more diverse organization leads to better product and true innovation.
The sneaker world has traditionally been dominated by male designers particularly in the public eye, but if people knew more about the hidden talents on the inside I think they would be amazed. I had the pleasure of working with 14 individuals on the 1 Reimagined and if you knew the products they have designed in their career, I think it would blow everyone’s minds.
How was it for you, seeing the Jester live at B&&B on all those young stylish kids?
It was really powerful to see the Jester in the bright signal orange colorway, giving it a bold new look. And secondly B&&B was such an amazing place for people watching and style. I loved the energy!
Next up, Recap: Bread&&Butter by Zalando 2018.