Since its initial launch in 1999, NIKEiD has come a long way. What started as a pure fashion endeavor has come around to the performance side, in 2011 even encompassing the Air Jordan. Along the way it has become an integral part of the signature shoe process for top-tier guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as their usual assortment of inline and PE releases are supplemented by a ton of DIY options.

And that’s the way to look at it — as a key part of the signature line, as important and as connected (if not more so) to the athlete as any of the inline releases. A shoe like the LeBron X has a lot of features taken from LeBron’s own life, and the ID process allows for something of a more personal touch. A fan-sourced remix, if you will. “A lot of it is about creating a further connection between the consumer and the athlete,” says a NIKEiD developer. “So what is it about LeBron that inspires you? It really bridges that gap between LeBron and his fans and the shoe itself.”

We talked to the developer from NIKEiD a lot more about how the creative process works, how much involvement the athletes have, and how bringing the LeBron 9 to ID changed their approach to the LeBron X. Check it out.


Since there are so many shoes on NIKEiD, how does the decision get made about what colors and options to offer?

Each shoe is unique, and there’s a real difference between working on something that’s a Sportswear shoe that has a high style element to it versus something that’s more focused on the performance. Some of the needs you have to meet are drastically different. So for the LeBron X —which happens to be one of the best shoes we’ve done to date, we’ve focused on delivering the most feature-rich customize experience possible.

The LeBron franchise in general, something that is both extremely innovative and extremely style conscious at the same time. So for NIKEiD, it’s the perfect playground — we get to meet the needs of performance and create this awesome on-court team kind of experience for the everyday player, and we also get to explore the style realm and be really creative with it as well.


That leads to something of a follow-up, how different is it when you’re doing ID options for a performance shoe rather than something like an Air Force One or a Dunk. Are there more considerations you have to take into account?

Definitely. With the LeBron, when you talk about a performance shoe, there’s some performance attributes of the shoe that we need to stay absolutely true to, like the materials and performance features like Hyperfuse material, the Dynamic Flywire and the full-length zoom unit. All of those performance features have to remain intact to keep the integrity of the performance products needs. When you’re working on an AF1 or a Dunk, you’re given a little more leeway in terms of materials and you can be pretty creative. You can push the boundaries in terms of bringing something that is much more style-conscious than, say with a performance shoe.

When it comes down to color, there’s a few things that you balance out — one is the athlete insight, that’s always the most important thing, you have to stay true to that individual. When it comes to Sportswear, you kind of get to play around a little more and you can be really creative with the brief. I think that’s the big difference between the two.


Regarding the athlete, does LeBron actually get a say in what options are offered — if there’s a color he’s really into, does that make the cut? Because ultimately his name’s still on it.

Absolutely. The options are always reviewed with him, we come with proposals and work through the options. It is definitely an engaging process with the athlete.


OK. Because relatively speaking this is a newer thing — obviously most athletes didn’t have this, and this is something of an expansion on the entire signature shoe concept.

Absolutely. This shoe is actually LeBron’s second on NIKEiD which featured the LeBron 9 last year. We’ve also been working with the Kobe since the Kobe II, and with Kevin Durant since the KD III. So we’ve been working with signature athletes for a few years now, but it’s a relatively new expression for LeBron.


If enough people order a specific colorway that wasn’t a stock color, does that get any consideration to be an inline color the next season?

We work together with the inline team day in and day out, and we’re in constant communication on what’s trending on NIKEiD and what’s trending in the marketplace itself. It’s actually a two-way communication both between their insights and ours, and the ultimate goal is creating the best products that we can for both channels so that our consumers and the fans that are purchasing these shoes get the best that we can give them.


And you do see — guys like Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith, you have NBA athletes who seem to enjoy utilizing the ID process for their own shoes. Do you have the signature guys doing it, is LeBron doing up his share of his own shoe?

We serve up Nike’s best products, it’s great seeing that how the line has blurred between the experiences of elite athletes, guys playing in the NBA, compared to those aspiring to reach their level.  Whether if it’s summer ball or playing on their high school team. There’s this unique expression point. That’s the power of NIKEiD. We give you the keys to create your ultimate footwear.


And obviously the possibility is there to duplicate your favorite player’s shoe. And I’m not sure whether this ties in here, but there’s also the connection to NBA 2K13 this year. That’s a new step for ID.

The big innovation for this year is giving the gamer access to create their players shoe with the option to share or purchase their design via email. We’re constantly trying to make the experience ID seamless and easy.


Do you see a point — and this may be looking too far ahead — where ID replaces if not all, some of the inline colorways? Because if you can pick your own, does that cut back on what people would find elsewhere?

I wouldn’t say that. Inline’s always gonna bring the heat. NIKEiD is about giving the consumer a choice. So it’s not really an A or B. It is about enabling the consumer to make it theirs.


Are there colors and materials that you’d like to offer on ID that someone along the line has vetoed because it’s too ridiculous?

We’re able to provide new things, unexpected things. So as far as filtering colors it’s not as much being vetoed by any given power, but really trying to offer the best we possibly can.


So something you’d offer for the Kobe wouldn’t necessarily be something you’d offer for the LeBron.

There are colors that are LeBron specific and there are colors that are Kobe specific or Kevin Durant specific. It really ties into what the story of that shoe is. And then it goes into developing the proposition of what makes it NIKEiD – there’s no specific recipe, we dive into the details in every product.


So basically it starts with the athlete and the initial designer of the shoe.

And then we pull all of our insights from our community.


Did whatever worked with the LeBron 9 ID affect how you approached the LeBron X?

I think we learned a lot from the LeBron 9 – looking back what we did with that shoe, we did a few different things. We had a team version available and it was focused on team colors. And that was designed to give the everyday player a chance to make their own player edition for their on-court experience. Knowing that the LeBron franchise was also very style conscious, we also created a second iteration of that shoe, which was the LeBron 9 Limited ID.  In that one we were able to do things more like a translucent outsole or a gum rubber outsole, some NIKEiD exclusive things with the design of the shoe itself with the wing, and the materials and the colors. And what we learned from in listening to consumers is they didn’t want two separate executions, they didn’t want a sole style one and a sole team one, they actually wanted to be able to mix and match on their own. So that’s what we brought to the X, is we made it a fully comprehensive experience between those two elements, between team and style.


And you’ve also added in the Nike+ factor, so you end up with this variety of different options.

That just gives everybody that added level, determine your own experience. How involved do you want the shoe, how technological or innovative do you want it, and what experience is more appropriate to you?


Do you see more options being added to the LeBron X in ID as you go along?

We have a few things coming down the pipe.


And this would be in conjunction with inline releases as things change a little bit or…

A little bit of both. We can’t give you too much on this one. We think it’s going to be an interesting year.