Alumni says ‘just do it’ to designing Nike footwear


Courtesy of Colin Behr

Q & A Session With Nike Footwear Designer Colin Behr

Iowa State alumnus Colin Behr gives us a glimpse into the life of a Nike footwear designer, talks memories at Iowa State and inspiration.

Q: At what age did you start becoming interested in fashion?

A: As a toddler, I was gifted a pair of Air Jordans which I think triggered it all. I remember being in kindergarten and drawing animated NBA players, obsessing how their shoes looked with their jersey, what socks they might have on, along with assorted sweatbands, etc.

Q: What was your major at Iowa State?

A: I double majored with industrial design and apparel design.

Q: What was your favorite memory at Iowa State?

A: I have a few: being on the sideline when ISU football beat No.2 Oklahoma State in Ames. VEISHEA 2013. Studying abroad in London. Being in Kansas City for the men’s basketball back-to-back Big 12 titles in ’14 and ’15.

Q: What does a typical day look for like you?

A: I’ll start off by commuting from downtown Portland, [OR] to Beaverton, [OR], via bike and/or train. Once I get into the office I usually return some emails to our development counterparts in Asia. Then I’ll reference my check list for what project deadlines are closest, followed by throwing some tunes on to work the morning away. I might be sketching, cutting up a shoe, making a sample or doing more technical types of drawings in Adobe Illustrator.

After lunch I always take a stroll around campus to clear my mind and switch up my environment. If it’s a slow day, I like to leave mid-way through the afternoon and sketch from my drawing table at home.

Q: What was a defining moment in your career?

A: A defining moment for me was my first internship at New Balance. It was there, as a junior in college, that within a 6 month time frame I ended up having three shoes come to market, which is unusual for an intern.

Q: Is being a fashion designer just as fabulous as one would expect?

A: Yes, if that’s what you’re passionate about and enjoy doing. There are so many undocumented hours of work that go unseen, weekends of not going out due to exploration, research and execution of a project (more so in school, but this absolutely still happens in the real world). It can be a lot less fabulous than what you might see sugar-coated in a design video on the internet.

Q: How would you describe your personal aesthetic?

A: This is a tough question because I ultimately design for a larger identity, or brand. It would be a bit different if I was running my own firm, for example. I think my approach is rooted in blending style and function to derive new aesthetics and solutions to performance problems. I want to push familiarity in order to evoke emotional responses.

Q: What’s your proudest moment of your career (so far)?

A: Getting my job offer from Nike. This culminated after years of dreaming about this exact position, and to get it right out of school was very surreal.

Q: What do you foresee in the future of your career?

A: I would like to keep growing at Nike and move up, eventually getting into design director roles and having my own team that I can help lead and push an overall vision with.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to up-and-coming designers?

A: Don’t stop. If this is something you’re really passionate about and want to do, then keep chasing it. Find what makes you tick and give it your all. Everyone’s path is different. I was turned down by around 20 companies before landing my first internship with New Balance. Nike even turned me down for an internship, and less than a year later I was signed on as a full-time employee with them.

Q: What helps keep you inspired?

A: Life itself, and travel. I just got back from a two week development trip through Asia, and feel much more open-minded and energized (minus the jet lag). Experiencing different cultures is huge. Since I can’t do that on a weekly basis, I like biking, running, camping, hiking and painting to help bring me inspiration and energy.

Q: Who’s your style icon?

A: Pharrell + Nick Wooster + Ouigi Theodore + Errolson Hugh

Q: Any embarrassing moments throughout your career?

A: Any of my industrial design presentations following 1-2 days of no sleep.

Q: Favorite place you’ve traveled?

A: Tokyo, without a doubt.

Q: What’s your favorite quote or motto?

A: I have a hard time staying with a single favorite, so I’ll use this one for now: “Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think.” – Buddha

Q: Anything else you want us to know?

A: Shout out to my baby sister, Riley, who’s a freshman this year studying engineering!