Ken Black, vice president of Digital Design Future at Nike, told an audience of Oregon State students and others that the best way to be protective of your work is to be protective of your work relationships.
That was among the messages Black delivered May 19 during a Dean’s Distinguished Lecture at Austin Hall’s Stirek Auditorium.
Black believes strongly that design thinking is a critical part of a business education, and that students in all majors benefit from using a design-thinking, process-oriented technique for solving problems; taking a human/consumer-centered approach to innovation, one that puts observation and the discovery of human needs at the core of the process, is ultimately much more effective than jumping straight to a solution. It’s crucial, Black says, to always being asking “why”: Why would this idea benefit people, why does it matter, why would they be excited to pay hard-earned money for it, etc.?
Black’s lecture featured a Q-and-A format, with first Sara Hart Kimball Dean Mitzi Montoya and then the audience asking questions of Black; the dean’s guest has held a variety of creative-director roles at Nike and also helped found SPARQ, a business (subsequently acquired by Nike) that created a standardized test for athleticism and sold training apparel, shoes and other gear.
Black, who grew up in Salem, talked of his love of basketball and how he’d hoped as a high school student to have a future in the sport, but when that didn’t pan out he fell back on another love and talent – drawing – to pursue a career as a designer. He now describes himself as an artist in a corporate world.
His points during his visit to Austin Hall included:
- Everyone is a designer on some level.
- Creativity is awareness.
- With passion and resilience you can get through almost any challenge.
- Business-oriented people, wherever you end up working, find a designer to be your best friend; and vice versa.
- Have a strong vision of where you want to go and a flexible path for getting there.
Black also noted that his career highlights include working both with legendary Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield and with Michael Jordan himself.
Black earned a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design with Honors of Distinction from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.