Nike‘s ” The Nature of Motion ” exhibition located within the Ex Fabbrica industrial complex built in 1920, in the south of the city, presented installations by an array of international designers who explored the concept of movement, alongside work by Nike ‘s internal design team.
Nike’s 2016 Milan exhibition was a multi-faceted exploration of the brand’s approach to movement.
Nike Design advances the potential of the human body through a synergy of form, function and motion. Nike’s obsession with Natural Motion persists and with each innovation the gap between product and body lessens.
“ Nike has come to Milan for many years looking and observing and we felt that it might be of interest to not just come and witness but come and participate. Milan offers a unique venue and a stage to have a conversation with people that love design about where we want to take the world of sports going forward. This exhibit is a great example of Nike showing how we collaborate with external artists, creatives and designers that are pushing culture and design forward. ” …. John Hoke – VP Global Design – Nike
Nike staged a large-scale installation celebrating the spirit of material innovation and the Nature of Motion through collaborations with an international cadre of talented designers and a joyful display of the imaginings of their in-house design team.
Go behind the innovation and beyond the imagination. Sometimes you have to forget the limits to set new ones.
Like Nike’s laboratory, The Nature of Motion is a place where design, science, technology and emotion meet. It was a provocative exhibition on the human body and the way materials impact us all
Visitors were sent on a journey that leaves them with a deeper understanding of the brand’s mindset on both a practical and conceptual level—going beyond the sport shoe.
“ We need to go behind the innovation and beyond the imagination. Sometimes you have to forget the limits to set new ones. Our collaborators push us, and us, them, in hopes of creating a springboard for the future and the generations that will continue the conversation. There is no finish line ” …… John Hoke
For Milan Design Week 2016, Nike commissioned a number of progressive contemporary designers to explore movement through various mediums, inspired by the on-going pursuit of natural motion and marking but a moment in the conversation, in the endless exploration and endless learning of the non-perfect, non-linear creative process.
Seven projects inspired by the theme, “The Nature of Motion” were instigated by international designers – Lindsey Adelman, Zaven, Martino Gamper, Greg Lynn, Bertjan Pot, Sebastian Wrong and Clara von Zweigbergk & Shane Schneck
Each designer interpreted the theme, creating design objects that played with ideas of balance, human resilience and sound.
The display, which crossed multiple media and sensory experiences, tackled many concepts within form and function and even utilised some of their proprietary Nike materials ( like Flyknit )
Motion, of course, is the through-line, whether that’s the motion of a drumstick on a Flyknit kit or a collaborative seating study that requires cognitive engagement in order for the user to achieve balance.
There was an educational aspect to everything which required a more thorough examination of everything presented, yet it didn’t take away any of the charm or wonder.
Brand-led exhibitions are often a difficult sell – but Nike’s effort was a very successful one.
The brief was simple (explore the idea of natural motion) and the participating designers responded with gusto.
“ The future is all about haptic intelligence, it’s about enabling the body to gather information not just from sight and sound but also from feel. The Nature of Motion reflects this approach. ” ……. John Hoke
Flyknit drum kit
Trained as a furniture maker and sculptor, Italian Martino Gamper pairs a hands-on approach to making with an interest in reusing or repurposing materials, both raw and refined.
Gamper uses the vibration of sound as a poetic response to Nike’s prompt.
Displayed within a specially constructed domestic environment, Gamper’s collection of drums creates a commentary on the rhythm of Natural Motion by stretching technical Nike Flyknit textiles over laminated plywood forms and securing them with Nike laces.
Gamper lives and works in London, England.
Clara von Zweigbergk & Shane Schneck
Swedish Clara von Zweigbergk merges a graphic design background with an interest in paper, color and handcraft to create unexpected products.
American industrial designer Shane Schneck’s Office for Design bridges the disciplines of design and technology in an effort to forge new solutions for contemporary life.
A collection of stools from the Stockholm-based design couple is a playful take on the theme—a range of cork forms of varying heights and “postures” require a sitter to engage the body in varying ways in order to gain stability on these gently tilting, rocking, and precariously balanced seats.
The duo’s collection of seating studies the interplay of balance and posture, specifically how the human body interacts with static objects. Each stool requires its sitter’s cognitive engagement to balance.
The combination of materials is similar to that of shoes: a cork base acts as the “sole,” providing grip and weight, while a medium-density polyurethane top provides a softer area for the seat.
Clara von Zweigbergk and Shane Schneck live and work in Stockholm, Sweden.
Dutch designer Bertjan Pot’s work is propelled by impulsive curiosity — about materials, techniques, structures, patterns and colors — that leads him to push conventional manufacturing boundaries and experiment with textile and weaving techniques.
Pot’s series of resting pods takes the wheel, a symbol of momentum and movement, as a structural starting point.
By upholstering the inner tubes of a car, wheelbarrow, truck and tractor with ropes, Nike laces and belts, he initiates an unexpected but effective meeting of artisanal hand-weaving techniques and high-performance materials.
Pot lives and works in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Futurist communal seating
Sebastian Wrong is a British designer and creative director who specializes in contemporary manufacturing processes and materials, and possesses a passion for quality product fabrication — an interest evidenced in his work as the creative director of the London-based lighting manufacturer Wrong.London and his own progressive designs.
Wrong’s ergonomic chair formation, intended as communal seating, wraps an intricate textile around a hollowed steel frame.
The London-based designer created a seat worthy for team players.
Using the 1913 painting by Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s “Dynamism of a Soccer Player” as a starting point, Wrong upholstered the communal chair with Flyknit fabric—the painting’s distinctive shapes emerge when viewing the seat from above.
Wrong lives and works in London, England.
British furniture designer Max Lamb cites an upbringing in the rugged landscape of Cornwall, England, as catalyst for his fascination with elemental materials, such as stone, metal and wood, which he shapes into pure, brutal forms that celebrate their respective raw qualities.
Lamb’s ongoing focus on the most elemental of materials plays in his installation for Nike.
Lamb’s surreal installation showcases heavy aluminum, granite and polystyrene blocks effortlessly levitating above an invisible film of compressed air, which enables them to move with the lightest touch and, in turn, challenge perceptions of weight and effort.
Lamb lives and works in London, England.
American Lindsey Adelman.’s designs are influenced by structural forms found in nature and the visual tension that results from mixing hand-blown glass with machine-made metal elements.
For Adelman, movement is always present and powerful, even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Adelman’s light installation is inspired by the Natural Motion of plants. She interpreted the principles of motion through the most elemental aspect of lighting—electricity.
It comprises two light fixtures, each incorporating multiple phases of natural development into a single, cohesive form. The forms communicate through vibrational movement in an effort to capture the elusive mystery of nature within the constraints of industrial components.
The light fixtures are programmed with Arduino to react to the presence of people with a slight vibration when approached, mimicking the ways plants can open and close in reaction to the cycles of night and day.
Adelman lives and works in New York City, United States
“ Evolution, change, extinction, new existence, the undetected motion is perhaps the most important. ”….. Adelman
Italians Enrica Cavarzan and Marco Zavagno are the founders of Zaven, a multidisciplinary creative studio that studies the interaction between communications, design and art through product, graphic and installation design, as well as creative direction.
Cavarzan and Zavagno’s oversized floor lamps — referencing the organic —feature LED diffusers made with Nike Flyknit, forming an installation inspired by the beauty of an athlete in action.
The stance of the floor lamps were inspired by the movement of athletes through space.
Reflection, light and shadow are employed to enhance human movement within the space.
Zaven is located in Venice, Italy.
Micro Climate chair
American architect Greg Lynn combines the realities of design and construction with modern digital technologies to push the boundaries of both mediums.
A pioneer in new methods of manufacturing ergonomic forms using CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machinery, he is now using digital technology to dynamically change environments during their use.
Lynn’s intelligent microclimate chair, constructed of a combination of rigid and flexible carbon fiber, uses integrated sensors to calculate the body temperature of the sitter then adjusts its integrated Peltier cooling modules and aluminum heat sinks accordingly.
Designed for athletes, the surface is designed for maximum surface contact with the sitter, with a goal of selectively cooling and heating an athlete between periods of physical activity.
Greg Lynn FORM is located in Los Angeles, United States
Sensation Room by Nike In-House Design Teams
Nike’s internal design team gave visitors an up-close, immersive understanding of the brand’s longstanding research into natural motion.
Featured areas included an exploration of the Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit and experiments in 3D printing.
These exhibits converged to give visitors an inside look at how Nike’s design collective finds new solutions for athletes and how those designs come to life.
Nike Free – Running on Grass / 3D Printing
Although the six prototypes were enclosed in glass, visitors were encouraged to touch and feel the wall in front of the display which had different types of 3D printed “grass”—cut grass, putting greens, bent grass—that corresponded with the shoe display.
The idea to use a soft 3-D–printed material mimicking grass came after Nike’s running performance team traveled to Stanford University and met with track runners at the school.
The group was shocked to see the athletes running barefoot on the grass.
“ When we asked the coach why this was,” says Jobe Nate Nike Design Director Sportswear, “ he responded, ‘because this is strength training, and after a while, your Nike shoes hurt my runners’ feet.’”
As such, the Nike team went back to headquarters with the plan to try a 3-D–printed version of grass on future soles.
“ We then took biometrics on the bottom of the foot while running, and strategically placed the synthetic grass at different parts of the sole,” says Jobe. “One prototype has the grass bent over, another features the sensation of cut grass, while another is like a putting green.”
” We took this idea and translated it into cushioning concepts for the city. In New York, Tokyo, London and Paris, you’re always on your feet,” Jobe said. “ What if you could walk on any surface you wanted while being in a big city? Grass is a lot more forgiving than concrete.”
The question is, will any of the innovative prototypes on display be available soon for mass markets ? It won’t necessarily be anytime soon, as this is an ongoing process.
“ Very similar to how there were once sketches on paper, now we have 3-D versions that can be showcased, and hopefully will have an impact on other designers and how they model their next shoe. ”
Genealogy of Natural Motion
Four years after its unveiling, Flyknit continues to form the front line of performance footwear.
Nike designers can now engineer each pixel to integrate multiple dimensions of sport-specific benefits, like lightweight strength, breathable structure and elemental defense.
In order to create for the future, Nike designers must be both conceptual and practical, a converse mandate that requires prototyping, and playing.
At The Nature of Motion, a Nike exhibition at Milano Design Week 2016, these elements are front and center
A retrospective of Nike footwear that has been designed to mimic running shoe less.
3D Experiments in Natural Motion
Noah Murphy Reinhertz, Nike Design Sustainability Leader.
” While exploring the nature of motion, we were inspired by how an athlete’s energy moves in cycles: You prepare, you perform, you recover; you prepare, you perform, you recover.
We wanted to think about making footwear in the same way, through a closed-loop process in which the material goes from raw state to product and back again.
To realize this, we mashed up the timeless craft of origami with the generative digital tools that are driving design into the future.
A unique computer generated pattern is etched into the paper. When all folds are gathered, a shoe emerges directly from the material. These folds give the paper new adaptive properties, but they don’t destroy its original character. So when we smooth the paper back out and remove the “information,” we’re left with the raw material and the potential to create another shoe.
This process imagines a future in which shoes are created uniquely for an event or an outfit, specific to the conditions of the day.
Afterwards, that material is ready to readapt for the next race, the next game.
Our original prototypes for this were all folded by hand. Eventually, as we got into more and more more complex designs, we started to use 3D printing combined with the paper rolls to build out the installation.
In the end, it was the free exploration and open collaboration between teams at Nike that allowed us to do something really imaginative and unique.”
New Nike Free Shoe release
Nike’s pursuit of enabling the athlete’s natural motion dates back to the company’s early days, when co-founder Bill Bowerman imagined the ideal sneaker as a “second skin for the foot.”
This obsession with stripped-down, high-performance footwear has permeated Nike design ever since, catapulting forward in 2004 with a major design breakthrough: the introduction of Nike Free.
In Milan, they debuted the most recent iteration of the Nike Free—which incorporates a sole that expands and moves with the runner, mimicking the movement of a foot as it propels a runner forward.
” The concept of Nike Free is looking at how we can have the foot move more naturally it’s a journey we’ve been on for 15 years and we are unveiling the latest installment, which we’ve been working on for some time and are thrilled to launch an all-black iteration of the new Free RN Motion Flyknit here.” ……. John Hoke
Outside Courtyard Area
Before leaving the exhibition, guests encounter an installation of multicolored dots covering the courtyard space, designed to help them discover what their natural motion is.
One guest decided to hop out solely on the yellow circles, while another danced across the courtyard.
John Hoke, VP Global Design, NIKE, Inc., discusses the impetus behind the company’s creations.
For us, the goal is goose bumps, a visceral reaction to something beautiful, because the best design should captivate at first glance. But of course we also want form to serve function, so we strive for balance, knowing that no one piece stands alone and that everything needs to exist in harmony with everything else, including the athlete’s emotional mind-set.
We operate on the principle that if we can design a cohesive system that works together, we can effectively reduce or eliminate all meaningful distractions and allow the athlete’s mind and body to focus solely on performance. Here at Nike, that process starts, both from a philosophical and a practical standpoint, with listening to the athlete. But that’s really only the beginning. What the athlete tells us informs just a portion of our method. Breakthrough comes from combining what the athlete says with what we observe and what performance data is disclosing and predicting.
But while we have an incredibly rich suite of data at our disposal, data doesn’t design. That’s our part. It’s up to us to sort, synthesize and structure that data into a form that is both striking and functional — something that speaks to its intention while transcending the merely utilitarian, blending precision with emotion. This is part of the reason we continually look to nature, the master innovator, for inspiration, because of how it solves problems not just practically, but also gracefully, beautifully.
Nature also teaches us a master class in adaptation — in the need for a symbiotic relationship between a living thing and its environment. Our designs increasingly conform to the athlete, so that a shoe no longer needs to be broken in but is at peak efficiency and performance right out of the box. And from there, the goal is products that adapt both to individual athletes and to the specific needs of the athlete in the moment.
But even as we can envision a future of hyperspecificity and generative design, we know that sport is more than simply a physical act. Countless interactions with athletes everywhere and our own experiences reveal a universal truth of athletic performance: It’s not just physical. It’s intellectual, it’s emotional, it’s spiritual. When these aspects come together, truly transcendent athletic moments become possible.
We’re actively designing to trigger those moments. We’re taking into account not only the nature of the physical task to be performed, but also the human nature of the athlete performing it. We now know definitively what we’ve always known intuitively, which is that how athletes look and feel is integral to how they perform.
When athletes put on their uniform, it triggers a shift inside them because of how it feels on their body, but also because of how it looks on them. The psychological effect is a mind-set — “My body feels contained, crisp, like a coiled spring, ready to fire” — that enhances performance.
One of the things that has become clear to us is that athletes want their senses turned on and up, rather than down and off. The future is all about haptic intelligence: enabling the body to gather information not just from sight and sound but also from feel.
That’s all still exploratory at this point, and when you venture outside the conventional you’re taking some risk. But then so does every athlete who moves his or her sport forward.
It’s that search for what’s on the bleeding edge, so to speak — concepts that might seem strange or even uncomfortable at first — that will enable us to fulfill not only our commitment to serve athletes but also our long-term mission to transform the athletic landscape.