RIT 2016 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARDS

Eric Avar Bio

Science, Art, and Sneakers—The Inspiration Behind
Eric Avar's '90 Designs


Nike’s Vice President of Design Innovation and 2016 CIAS Distinguished Alumnus, Eric Avar ’90, grew up with a mechanical engineer father and fine artist mother, but did not know a marriage of the two disciplines could exist beyond his parent’s union until he came to RIT.

“I had no idea what industrial design or product design was before RIT,” Avar said. “Within the first two weeks on campus, I just happened to find my way up to the fourth floor of the design building and was immediately enthralled by this balance of art and science.”

Having started with the mechanical engineering program, Avar begged to be let into the industrial design program. Despite not having a formal portfolio, rather a collection of drawings his mother sent him in a plastic bag, CIAS faculty saw promise and gave Avar a shot.

Starting at Nike in 1991, Avar has helped create some of the company’s most innovative and award-winning designs of the past 25 years, including products within the Nike Basketball, Nike Free, Lunar and Kobe Bryant series of footwear. He currently oversees projects in an extension of Nike’s Innovation Kitchen.

Avar believes the foundation to his success as a designer is his upbringing and education, which bred his harmony of science, style, and function. He credits RIT’s diversity of programs with giving him the necessary skills to “relate, talk, work, and collaborate with anyone.”

For other design students who aim to follow in his Nike-adorned footsteps, Avar offers some advice:

“Be a sponge. Go out to the perimeter, go out to the fringes and learn as much as possible. Not in an effort to be an expert at anything, but to embody the spirit of being a sponge, which helps inform design-thinking and the creative problem-solving process.”