Howard puts heart in soles
reputation as a national hockey power, it seems especially fitting
that a graduate has a career designing skates.
Her designs go beyond
the ice rink, however. As creative director for the Nike Products
division of Bauer Nike Hockey Inc., Stephanie Howard 94
(industrial design) designs ice hockey, roller hockey and inline
skates as well as accessories such as sports bags.
How I ended
up in footwear was kind of a fluke, says Howard, but
it turned out to be the perfect career for me. Howard,
a runner, inline skater and roller-hockey player, notes that I
really like the purity of design in the sport of hockey. The players
need their equipment to give them speed, mobility, and protection.
Its a well-defined goal.
As an undergraduate,
Howard worked on a variety of projects ranging from pneumatic
air hammers to toys. She thought she likely would work for a consulting
company and began her job search by interviewing for free-lance
Because of my
portfolio and the preparation from RIT, I had choices when I graduated,
she says. People were really open to talking to me.
A contact with Brian
Keating 92 (industrial design), who was working for New
Balance in Boston at the time, led to her joining that company
as a designer of running shoes. After three years, she moved on
to Reebok. Three years later, she joined Nike.
Howard works from her
home in Boston, traveling to the companys Greenland, N.H.,
facility once or twice a week, and frequently to Nike headquarters
in Beaverton, Ore., as well as to Montreal, where Bauer Nike Hockeys
research, design and development center is located. The arrangement
works well for Howard: her husband, industrial designer Benjamin
Beck, is a partner in a Boston-based consulting firm.
begin with a brief from the marketing department explaining the
concept for a new product. I do lots of hand sketching,
trying to think of all the ways the product can be approached,
she explains. Function is always the primary concern.
She surrounds herself
with images and gathers reference information on materials. Eventually,
she meets with a team to review ideas. Ultimately, she goes to
the computer and begins working in Adobe Illustrator to create
a detailed rendering of the new product.
That goes to consumers
and dealers for feedback. After further refinement, her design
becomes a prototype. Howards part in the process typically
takes a few months; the road from idea to finished product can
take 18 months to two years.
a shortage of new projects. Nike is constantly looking
for ways to innovate, she says. Style is a consideration,
but Nike places a premium on technical advances to improve comfort
and performance. In the quest for better products, the company
makes use of industrial designers, engineers, bio-mechanics experts
and testing labs.
Howard goes to sporting
events to talk to consumers about their likes and dislikes to
get ideas. Although shes been in the athletic footwear
field for a decade, she continues to find the work interesting
– and challenging.
compete, or set out to reach their personal goals, they want excellence,
think Ill ever be bored.