addicted to retail © 2012 Zak Hoke. All rights reserved.

Addicted To Retail (ATR) Special Feature: Behind The Design – Aaron Carlsson/IDL Worldwide


Addicted To Retail (ATR) presents: Behind The Design with Aaron Carlsson, Creative Director of IDL Worldwide.

My good friend Aaron Carlsson is currently the Creative Director at IDL Worldwide’s Portland Creative Hub overseeing Nike and Brand Jordan PR, Event and Retail projects. He has previously designed products for Nixon, Roxy, Nike and other leading lifestyle brands. His work has been featured in Wallpaper, Stuff, Nylon, GQ and across the blogosphere on Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, Complex and his claim to fame, Kanye West’s blog.

(ATR): What is your design aesthetic?
(AC): I actually make a concerted effort NOT to conform to a signature aesthetic as a designer to avoid being ‘that guy who does that look’. I’m going for clean, minimal, considered designs that include a singular moment or element that really includes the consumer in an insightful ‘secret handshake’ nod to their beliefs and aspirations.

(ATR): What inspires your creative process?
(AC): Primarily architecture because of it’s rich history and heritage, it’s encompassing immersive power, and it’s unlimited potential to affect people in ways other design fields cannot. I wanted to be an architect all my life until I discovered Industrial Design, but I still have an tremendous respect and love for it.

(ATR): What are the themes that you are trying to communicate through your design work?
(AC): The real thread through my design work is connecting to the consumer, whoever that may be. Finding those key visual cues that speak to them, engage them and draw them in. It’s really about knowing your consumer, and then elevating that knowledge into aspirational elements that capture their attention. These connections are especially important in the complex, fickle, overcrowded action sports, lifestyle products and retail environments that my work lives in.

(ATR): You’ve worked on projects for Nike/Jordan Brand. What was that collaborative process like? Learnings?
(AC): Working with Nike, and especially the Jordan Brand, is a dream come true. Growing up with both brands and now being able to contribute to how consumers view and interact with them is a big responsibility that I and my design team take very seriously but with a tongue-in-check, clever approach. Collaborating with such talented people is an amazing platform for challenging yourself and your own design growth. If you want to work with great designers, art directions and creative directors…do work for Jordan! I’ve been fortunate to do work for some of my other favorite brands as well like Nixon Watches and Forum Snowboards, it’s been a great ride so far.

(ATR): What materials are essential to your design philosophy?
(AC): Research, inspiration and insight. There can be no design before understanding of the task at hand.

(ATR): Are your projects works of art?
(AC): No, absolutely not. I have great respect for pure artistic expression, like sculpture and painting, that have no tie to any commercial or profit expectations. I try to live between pure art and commercial gain, and hopefully excel and succeed in both worlds equally.

(ATR): What do you enjoy most about design?
(AC): The collaboration process with a team of talented people challenging and pushing each other to always go further than the last project. The Fly Wade ‘floating shoe’ display project was an intensive, challenging, collaborative process at many levels across design, technology and execution that all came together at the perfect point and made an impact on people who experienced it, very rewarding.

(ATR): What projects do have coming up?
(AC): We just finished great projects for the new Fly Wade 2 coming off the tremendous success of the Fly Wade ‘floating shoe’ launch, and we just installed the first of a world wide launch of new Jordan Brand fixtures right in your back yard, Staten Island [NYC], you should check it out! Our most anticpated project we have coming up is with the Jordan Brand as we’ve been working with them for over six months now on the upcoming launch of the Air Jordan 2012 shoe. We have been exploring storytelling, technology, and premier events and nearly all aspects of how to launch a major product across multiple channels at a world class level. It’s a real joy to be behind the scenes and creating for a product that has been a standard fixture in your own life. The AJ2012 launches at retail in late January 2012, look for it…

(ATR): Anything you’d like to add…?
(AC): Thank you Zak for your friendship and all the inspiration and insight I’ve gained from you and ATR in the last year we’ve crossed paths, keep it up. I’d also like to thank the talented design team I collaborate with each and every day at IDL to create retail curations that hopefully end up on Addicted To Retail.

(ATR/Zak Hoke): And so I shall…Thanks Aaron!

Additional insights from Aaron Carlson:
1. Nixon Newton: Got to design for another of my very favorite brands, Nixon Watches. Designed close to 20 models for both men and women’s lines over 2 years, the Newton is one of my faves! Great collaboration with one of my favorite designers, Brian Goodwin.

2. Forum_VSP Womens Binding: Was able to lead and greatly affect one of Forum Snowboards most anticipated project launches in 10 years, the VSP Women’s binding. A great study in understanding your client, their needs and above all… their wishes!

3. Fly Wade Miami HOH floating shoe: One of my most successful, impactful and rewarding programs of my career, and a first in the history of retail! Months of research and prototyping with global specialty partners allowed us to actually float (yes, really float, no strings) a Fly Wade 2 in key markets across America for the premier launch of his first signature shoe with the Jordan Brand. We turned some heads with this one. Thanks for featuring it on ATR Zak!

4. Kobe VI Black Mamba terrarium display: Kobe, The Black Mamba! What way to better tell the story of his quick and deadly game that to present the shoe as if it were actually a venomous snake. People still talk about the impact of this project, even as we are now preparing for the upcoming launch of the Kobe VII.

5. Jordan Fixture Program Staten Island: The first cohesive Jordan Brand fixture update in years. Collaborted with key stakeholders at Jordan to create a high-end, premium, cohesive look of where the Jordan Brand is going in the future. Intricate details, pinnacle materials finishes and flexible modularity make this system one you’ll be seeing, and shopping, soon.

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