Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Digital vs Analogue

Nike’s big reveal of their Air Force One ‘High Frequency Digital Camouflage’ is a clear cut reminder that their aesthetics committee is willing to test new waters. Like the Nike Foamposite Galaxy and Tom Sachs x Nike Craft: Space Camp Project, the HFDC is deeply rooted in Nike’s burgeoning conceptual portfolio. It feels indebted to the groundwork laid by independent design projects, in particular Matt Stevens’ Max 100. Despite his conceptual designs appearing on Nike Air Max 1’s, similarities to the HFDC are easy to spot when comparing it to the Returned, Logical, Puzzled and Equal prints. This is by no means a negative observation. On the contrary it proves that Nike are not just willing to support artistic collaborations but more importantly try to play the game themselves.

It is increasingly feasible that Nike will be releasing a commemorative AF1 pack for each of the AF1’s 30 years of existence by the end of this year. If true, time dictates that there will be a flurry of new AF1’s in the coming months fuelling much speculation over Nike’s every creative step. With speculation, however, there always needs to be clear differentiation between what is probable and what the consumer desires.  The following ideas certainly reflect the latter. 

Continuing with the principal theme of camouflage it would be interesting to see how Nike would approach creating a sister pack to the HFDC by basing the aesthetic on analogue not digital image making. Having a digital vs. analogue aesthetic is a jovial reinterpretation of the classic battle between old and new. Nike has been scripting this narrative for some time with their integration of the latest technologies and design elements onto their classic silhouettes. The challenge set with the analogue pack is it’s not just enough for the innovation to be the hyperfusing, Vach Tech or using of FreeSole, but in creating a dated visual affect using these modern of modern methods. To understand the extent of this problem here are some images of analogue interference that would best suit the camouflage theme. 

Importantly, Nike can draw inspiration from elsewhere too. Attempting to imitate the images above onto fabric pixel-by-pixel runs the risk of loosing the original effect altogether. The differences in material property between electronic images and fabric designs are not only numerous but also hugely complex. The differences between graphic design and fabric design however are concretely more similar. The work of Op artist Bridget Riley is a case in point. Although she investigates many areas of perception, her work, with its emphasis on optical effects is the perfect bridge between electronic images and fabric design. As she explains in this video about her working methods, she emphasises the importance of repetition of pattern to create an overall effect and not the repetition of singular cells or pixels.  


If Nike were to create something along the lines of what has been speculated here, it would be first and foremost a triumph of cerebral design but more importantly a reinforcing of Nike’s increasing success at bridging the world of art and artist with the world of commercial and consumer driven design.  

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