OK, we get it. Nike’s days fill easily with fun projects, too many to think about, admits Nike basketball graphic designer Erick Goto. But he says that nothing tops creating an entire extraterrestrial line of shoes for superstars Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kevin Durant set for showcasing during the NBA All-Star weekend Feb. 15-17.
Reflective hints. Glow-in-the-dark soles. Materials extruding texture. And color, oh, the colors of alien life, all receive graphical free rein in Nike’s new Area 72 line, an entire project based around one weekend of basketball. Not only did the Nike graphic design team create one-off shoes for the three superstars to wear in Houston during the All-Star festivities, but they also conjured up five more “alienesque” Nike sneakers and apparel pieces inspired by the same out-of-this-world design.
Each year, Goto says, the team of about six designers and color experts itch for the freedom that All-Star weekend brings — the opportunity to step beyond convention and play with both story and color as star players aren’t required to adorn team colors on their feet for the weekend. Last year’s All-Star game in Orlando introduced a space theme, one more in line with training suits and moonboots. This year, with the game in historically space-heavy Houston, Goto says he wove a “design language around space and space travel not done before from a footwear perspective.” And that’s when things got fun in Area 72.
While birthed from Goto’s research, the Nike team also needed client buy-in. And that involves Kobe, Lebron and KD. “We pitch a lot of the ideas in the beginning and we’ll be having our athlete meetings and present the entirety of the concept and samples of the models,” Goto explains. “The signature athletes are all very different in interests and personalities.”
The team devised fictional stories to go with the designs, giving each player a personalized All-Star tale. By researching materials that seem “foreign and alienesque” and scrutinizing planetary composition and meteor makeup, Goto devised a line heavy on, well, geology. The special Lebron X shoe, for example, bases its deep purple, pebbled look on the rare Carbonado black diamond believed to have originated in space. “The Lebron really amplifies that idea of rocky geological layers,” Goto says.
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With Kobe, the designers focused on bright orange marble and fiery volatile surfaces with some icy teal. The Durant shoe hit varying alien-green tones, with Nike color expert Eugene Rogers heading the palette, allowing Goto to weave edgy colors with ample texturing throughout the entirety of the line.
“We definitely played with a lot of materials and you can see the special effects,” Goto says. The Lebron’s purple may look flat at one angle, but the textures shoot to life from contrasting views. The shoe’s venting zones, material changes and sharp angles provide ample texturing opportunity. The five-shoe Area 72 sportswear line gets even a bit funkier with glow-in-the-dark outsoles and reflective materials.
“All-Star is definitely the pinnacle expression of combining sport with a fun cultural element,” Goto says. “We have a lot of fun in making something that is both performance and actually has bold expression. Easily, this provides the most freedom.” Just don’t let Nike’s updated alien character, Raygun, catch you thinking about next year’s New Orleans All-Star theme.