Campus: San Francisco State University -- April 30, 2004

Just Wear It: Students Design Eyewear For Nike

When Olivier Bock enrolled in a seminar level Design and Industry class last fall, he was prepared for a challenge, but what he didn't know was that he was about to have an eye-opening experience.

In a first-ever partnership between SF State and sportswear giant Nike, Bock and his 22 classmates were given a chance to design cutting-edge eyewear for the company, under the direction of Rob Bruce, the design director of Nike's Vision Program.

The primary goal of the project was to expose students to a high level of professional design with a big-league company in order to understand the industry's expectations. The students were divided into teams of three, and each team was required to design and develop a pair of prototype glasses as well as a marketing package for the performance sports eyewear.

In February, the students, accompanied by Assistant Professor Martin Linder, presented their prototypes to a panel of designers at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

"It was very motivating to work with such an internationally recognized company. Not only was it exciting, but there was a level of professionalism and expertise that we had to meet," student Jane Rabanal said.

Rabanal's team designed eco-friendly eyewear for women by incorporating recycled and recyclable materials for their sunglasses and packaging.

Nike provided not only technical expertise, but also supplied the students with 150 "blank" lenses, 30 finished eyewear products, digital files of a 3-D model of a human head and ergonomic body measurements. Dimension, a manufacturer of 3-D printing equipment, also offered to produce three of the team's prototype models for free, each valued at $300.

"Eyewear is a very difficult product design challenge, something that has a lot of ergonomic constraints, in terms of material and user demands," Linder says. "It's something you put on your face, so there are aesthetic demands, functional and comfort issues. Next to medical equipment, it is one of the most difficult pieces of product you can possibly design."

"Throughout the semester, we really had to think hard about the different considerations of fit and comfort, performance and safety, materials, fabrication, etc. It was big," said Bock.

Bock's team designed eyewear for cycling, incorporating aerodynamic concerns into their designs, creating glasses that were lightweight, sweat resistant and reduced fogging.

Last fall, at an on campus presentation, the teams showcased an array of innovative and ingenious designs that included sunglasses that could seamlessly change from clear lens to shaded lens -- successfully combining style, performance, protection, customization and environmental concerns in their product designs.

"It is remarkable what the students have come up with considering the lack of experience and limited amount of time," said Linder, beaming with pride. "There are at least six students who have the potential to work with Nike. They have the talent and the personality to be successful in an environment like that."

The partnership, secured last April, also included a $10,000 donation from Nike to SF State, which will be used to purchase equipment for the Design and Industry Department.

Although Nike has yet to make concrete plans to manufacture the students' designs, Bruce has asked to keep the presentation materials and prototypes to be reviewed in greater depth. Many of the students are happy to have come this far.

"It was definitely a great experience. I was very excited to finally have the culmination of all our hard work presented to Nike with the hopes that perhaps our own designs may translate into a real consumer product one day," Rabanal said.

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