SBJ/November 21-27, 2011/Idea Innovators

James Carnes, Adidas

Define innovation: Having insight into what people want and need and finding a way of delivering on that expectation.

What’s the innovation you’re most proud of? AdiZero technology is something I’m most proud of.

What’s the future of your industry? Lightweight shoes, products that cool you down and make you faster. It’s all about the benefit you’re giving somebody, not necessarily a widget or technology.

What inspires you? The simplest ideas. Somebody who can reduce an idea to its simplest form but still retain the essence of it.

James Carnes

Head Of Global Design For Sport Performance
Adidas

Runners and athletes may recall that during the mid- to late 1990s, athletic shoes came in two varieties: heavy and heavier. James Carnes, head of global design for sport performance at Adidas, helped change that.

Carnes, who joined Adidas in 1995 after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in industrial design, developed the original prototype for Adidas’ minimalist Feet You Wear model in the late ’90s. He then went on to spearhead the company’s integration of ClimaCool technology in 2002. But Carnes’ most prominent contribution to the global footwear giant is its AdiZero technology, which creates extremely lightweight sneakers.

“Every brand was trying to come out with the next new technology that gives you added cushioning or propulsion,” Carnes said. “Our athletes told us they wanted shoes that were minimalist and light.”

By creating a single-piece shoe chassis, Carnes eliminated the need for heavy glues and extra stitching, both of which add weight. The technology produced the 11.5-ounce Crazy Light basketball model, which is four to five grams lighter than other lightweight basketball shoes.

Carnes concedes that Adidas has to convince some consumers that lightweight shoes can still be as supportive and stable as the heavier alternatives. Still, the company is not backing down from the challenge.

“If you play too much in the expected territory, people are skeptical of your product,” Carnes said. “You have to blow them away.”

— Fred Dreier

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