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Making: Nike

Exploring participatory design methods with students, tutors and industry professionals to bring data relating to climate into design decision making in processes in dynamic and applicable ways. 

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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. 

Nike hackathon

The CSF team and four of the future thinking designers from the London Style project and MA Fashion and the Environment (Christopher Raeburn, Matthew Miller, Michelle Lowe Holder and Alina Moat) take part in a week long exploration of the materials system at Nike HQ in Portland Oregon. The week culminated 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 Call Out

Nike needed a group of creative and inquisitive young designers and communicators to test the prototype Making app. CSF worked 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. 


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 were introduced to the project and the prototype app by Dave Cobban (Consumer Mobilization Director) and Howard Lichter (Global Director – Creative Outreach). The workshop marked the start of a two month research and concept development process, during which each team was mentored by one of the designers who took part in the hackathon at Nike HQ. 


The eight teams came together for a two-week intensive design incubator. Each team worked with the prototype Making app, to develop their concept and related design work.  CSF and the mentors along with LCF staff and technicians guided and supported the process. At the end of the two weeks each team presented 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 was be used to promote and showcase the ‘Makers Movement’ to press and the wider industry.

Final work

Based on feedback from the Nike panel, each team worked 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 emerged from the beta testing process providing the intelligence and creative input to rethink and redesign the Making app. 

Launch 2020 Summit

One representative from each team was 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 brought 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

CSF and Nike held 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 was 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 gave recognition to the multitude of players who have a role to play in building a sustainable materials movement that can grow and flourish. 

Project Team

  • Professor Dilys Williams

  • Renee Cuoco 

  • Alex McIntosh

Contact for the project 

Professor Dilys Williams, Professor in Fashion Design for Sustainability, UAL



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