I’m trying to… create a vision for what good looks like.
Lorrie Vogel, 46
Nike Considered Design
WHEN LORRIE VOGEL was a toy designer at Texas Instruments, her boss refused to look at any new product design until she had sketched 100 different versions. She recalls the long nights she spent sleeping in her studio and playing mental games to come up with just one more. “At 10, you’re like, ‘No, none is going to be better than this one,’” she says. “Then, sure enough, around 99, it’s way better than the 10th.”
Such relentless interrogation of the possibilities led Vogel from designing products (everything from toys like Peek-a-Boo Zoo to radio-tracking transmitters injected into roaming pigs) to redesigning the apparel industry as the manager of Nike’s sustainability division, Considered Design. “If you give me a problem,” she says, “I’m going to come up with different systems and processes to solve it.” Early in her current post, for instance, she reduced Nike’s materials consumption 30 percent by redesigning the company’s packaging. The other changes she’s helped pioneer have ranged from World Cup soccer jerseys made from plastic bottles (eight per jersey, to be exact) to open-sourcing Nike’s new recipes for water-based adhesives and recyclable shoe-sole rubber.
As a woman—one of only two to finish her design program at Syracuse University—Vogel is a rarity in the upper ranks of industrial designers. Her father encouraged her fascination with his collection of tools; her mother, with sewing. (Note: Vogel’s sister, Nicole Vogel, is publisher of Portland Monthly.) At the all-girl Catholic high school she attended in Houston, she notes, it was “cool to come to school with scrunchy hair tied up in a rubber band to show people how you’d worked all night long to come up with a good grade.” But she is part of a growing crowd of women leading corporate sustainability initiatives. “Women tend to be more systems thinkers,” she says. “Men might be more on-task.”
These days at Nike, Vogel is more strategist than designer. “A lot of people are creating sustainable products, but the majority are working on things that are less bad,” she says. Her goal is to chart Considered Design’s path “away from consumption to transaction,” so that every product Nike makes can be reclaimed. And that, Vogel says, begins with motivating designers.
“I try to create an environment where people can feel good about coming up with ideas, knowing that they won’t be harshly judged even if they are crazy. Being crazy is the seed for other ideas.” —Randy Gragg