Future of Retail? Nike’s Cool New Toy Lets You Design and Print Custom Sneakers in an Hour

W+K's The Lodge experiments with AR, object tracking and projection

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Nike and Wieden + Kennedy’s The Lodge have unveiled what they believe is a glimpse into the future of retail with an experience in New York City that lets visitors design their own one-of-a-kind sneakers, which are ready to wear in less than 90 minutes.

The Nike Makers’ Experience (it is invite-only at the moment) is housed at the Nike By You Studio at 45 Grand St. Upon arriving, each guest is invited to wear a blank slip-on version of the Nike Presto X shoe, a silhouette created exclusively for the experience. The guest can then choose graphic options “generated from either Nike heritage or on-the-spot phrases,” according to Nike, “which can then be customized into patterns through shifts to size and color.”

Augmented reality, object tracking and projection systems then bring designs to life right on the guest’s feet. Once the final design is chosen, the shoe actually gets produced on site and is available a little more than an hour later.

Nike explains further: “For example, one could start by using a birthday or anniversary. From that typographical input, patterns are then created and scaled to taste. Color choice and gradation are nearly infinite, too. And that’s just the tip of the customization iceberg.”

The Lodge, which is W+K’s in-house creative technology group, created the experience in collaboration with Mark Smith and his team in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. Nike has offered personalized sneakers for more than a decade through the NikeID system, but that was largely online, had fewer options, and took three to five weeks to deliver the shoes.

Nike is positioning the new experience as a way for consumers to get as personalized with their sneakers as Nike athletes do.

“The intention of the project is to bring to life the collaborative design experience that we offer our athletes,” says Smith, Nike’s vp of innovation special projects, said in a statement. “They love products that tell their story, so we wanted to combine that idea with a new process of live design and manufacturing that allows our guests to come into the space, work collaboratively with us and leave with a special product in less time than ever before.”

The invite-only experience will initially be limited to Nike friends and family and select Nike+ members.

“The Nike Makers’ Experience is a fast, fun, interactive, one-of-a-kind design experience. It takes most people longer to come up with their idea than it does for us to make it,” Smith says. “In our minds, this is tomorrow, today.”

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.