Repurposed Nikes swim with the fishes

Design challenge Nike78 tasks participants with rethinking the function of a new pair of Nikes. Imagine a Nike face mask and gaming shoes a la Wiimote.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Abuku Air
Akio Iida, Daisuke Maki, Michiyo Ooi, Kuki Aakaeda, Genki Ito, Takeshi Kogahara

Sure, Nikes are well and good for running a lap, but they make quite an attractive aquarium, too. Just take off the upper part of the shoe; use it to model a new, transparent top; add water, goldfish, rocks, and greenery; and hope you've sealed the thing up right.

That's what Akio Iida, Daisuke Maki, Michiyo Ooi, Kuki Aakaeda, Genki Ito, Takeshi Kogahara did. The designers from Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo LAB created their Nike Air Abuku (Japanese for "bubble") as part of Nike78, a design challenge conceived by graphic design student Paul Jenkins that's tasking participants with rethinking the function of a new pair of Nikes.

And rethinking them they are. Designs from a spooky "Silence of the Lambs"-style Nike face mask to Nike gaming shoes a la Wiimote to the Abuku aquarium are now pouring in, with an online gallery launching May 30 to coincide with the 1978 original date when Nike started producing sports shoes. An exhibit displaying the restyled footwear is planned for the London Design Festival in September.

Nikes like you've never seen them (photos)

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Many of the shoes are whimsical, a few are semi-practical. Some, like the Nike Air Abuku--dubbed by the designers "the shoe that keeps life going"--are meant to carry a message.

"We hope that the people who see this small aquarium built on Nike Air will stop to think about the artificial/natural environments that surround us and the connection between humans and other living creatures," the creators of that fishy footwear say.

Other highlights of the contest-in-progress: William Hooke's shoe that defies gravity due to an electromagnet setup with an Arduino micro controller at its core; Michael Robinson's "Nike+ 26," which has 26 embedded lights, 1 for every mile, so wearers can tout their endurance; and Simon Wild's tres wild "Telesportation," a "new intergalactic event giving athletes the opportunity to turn their Nike footwear into teleportation devices, scoring points for collecting universal life forms." Hey, we didn't say you'd be seeing these at Foot Locker anytime soon.

Click through the gallery above to see the crazy things designers are just doing with their Nikes, then go lament the fact that the fanciest thing you can do with your running shoes is double-knot the laces.

NIKE78 - W+K Tokyo LAB | 'ABUKU -?-' from NIKE78 on Vimeo.