A Creative Sole
Nike’s lead footwear designer Dylan Raasch discusses his North County roots and what propels him forward
Posted on September 21, 2018
“I became a footwear designer because shoes are an important component of people’s lives, allowing them to move around in the world and express themselves in a way that fits their style,” says Dylan Raasch, Nike’s Senior Creative Director for Air Max. “The ability to create something that people have such a personal connection with puts a smile on my face.”
Raised in North County, Raasch is the focused creative lead for all Air Max unit products, where he heads a team of 20 designers. He studied Industrial Design at Long Beach State University and the ArtCenter College of Design upon graduating from San Dieguito High School, and during his nine years with Nike, he has created renowned models such as the Payaa, Air Max Thea, Roshe One, and Roshe Two, among others. But design chops aside, one could argue that his SoCal upbringing also played a major role in shaping his creative aesthetic.
“It wasn’t until I was traveling the world year after year that I noticed the huge effect growing up in North County had on me and my design style,” says Raasch. “The West Coast has a very laid back style compared to the rest of the U.S., but Southern California, and North County in particular, was a hot bed for action sports in the late ’90s and early 2000s, which defined a new generation of sport.” Raasch’s first design job was with DC Shoes when it was located in Vista, where he was surrounded by action sports legends including Ken Block, Danny Way, and Rob Dyrdek, as well as DC Shoes co-founder Damon Way. Those guys “only thought outside of the box,” Raasch says, adding, “It engrained in me a mindset of constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and finding creative ways to get there.”
The ability to create something that people have such a personal connection with puts a smile on my face
Those early design days most certainly paved the way for what was to come at Nike. “As the largest footwear brand in the world, we have a tremendous amount of expectations put on us to deliver new innovation every season,” he says. About four years ago, the team received some criticism that they were leaning too much on prior concepts. The feedback sparked a fire under the entire brand, forcing everyone to step up their game and get back to doing what they do best — innovate. So they buckled down and “created the largest heel air bag ever at 32mm, which gives it its unique ride and a look that is iconic, fun, and unmistakable,” explains Raasch. The effort yielded the most successful Air Max 270 launch in Nike history.
As for what’s on the horizon, Raasch believes that as a society we need to begin thinking of the long-term effects our decisions have on us, and everyone around us. The team at Nike has started to create a more sustainable product stream with the goal of reducing its environmental footprint, but the consumer must also get on board. “It makes me excited that the younger generation is so committed to fostering this change and it has given me a renewed hope that we can shift the conversation in a positive direction by having a more considerate mindset,” he concludes.
Now that’s a design mantra that should always be on trend. nike.com Mia S. Park
Photography courtesy of Nike