Already a popular magnet for SAP employees around the globe since 2015, the SAP Design Talks series recently made its Berlin debut. And, in another first, the presentation given by Lars Kampf, director of Graphics at adidas, at the SAP Data Space in Berlin was open to external participants as well.

New York-based designer and startup founder Frank Chimero once said, “People ignore design that ignores people.” He was spot on. Whether it’s bathroom fittings, backpacks, or iPhone apps, good design simplifies things – and makes us want to use them. If a product is poorly designed, the likelihood is that customers will disregard it completely.

But ensuring good design isn’t just the responsibility of designers; it’s the duty of every single person involved in creating a product. SAP Design Talks aim to raise SAP employees’ awareness of precisely this point. And to give SAP employees the broadest possible range of insights into the design world, companies as diverse as IBM, Cirque du Soleil, Nike, BMW, and Philips have been invited to come to SAP and share their experiences and winning formulas.

“We make a point of inviting design experts from all sectors of industry,” says Christian Stark, who initiated the series. “At first glance, software designers could be forgiven for wondering how the design of sports shoes or cars is relevant to them. But it’s the differences that inspire lateral thinking and generate new ideas.”

If a product is poorly designed, customers will disregard it completely

Lars Kampf, director Graphics at adidas Originals, can also shed new light on the topic of design: His talk at the SAP Data Space in Berlin on June 16 was the first to also be attended by some 30 participants from outside SAP. After working as a freelancer, predominantly in packaging design and instruction manual illustration, Kampf joined adidas as a T-shirt designer in 2010. Now director of the graphics department, he is responsible for apparel and footwear and leads an international team of creative minds located across Europe and North America.

Sneakers for the Reunified City

In the early days, adidas’ marketing strategy for classics like the “Superstar” which was originally designed as a sports shoe, centered on associations with well-known and successful sports stars. But, from the 70s onward, shoes began evolving into lifestyle objects. To keep their products attractive to a changing market, the designers at adidas started drawing more and more of their inspiration from popular culture and contemporary history, as in the Star Wars collaboration (2010-2011) and the “Fall of the Wall” collection (2014) to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall. The latter featured a running shoe design from 1989 in the colors of the various Berlin Wall checkpoints and manufactured in Germany. One shoe was inspired by the white border crossing point at Checkpoint Charlie; another by the muted red of Checkpoint Bravo in the district of Berlin-Dreilinden.

This approach led to the emergence of a sneaker community with a passion for adidas designs, not least because of their clever allusions to events past and present. adidas has fostered interaction within this community in a number of ways, including selling different colored versions of the same shoe in different regional markets. As Kampf explains, cultural codes play a key role here, because design characteristics such as colors and numbers can signify one thing in one culture and something quite different in another.

Customers Get Creative

“In a fast-moving world like ours, you can no longer anticipate every single trend,” says Kampf. “Today’s trends are shaped by and within a creative community.”

This is where adidas gets a great deal of its inspiration. Fashion-conscious adidas customers, particularly from the younger generation, use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as platforms for experimenting with outfits and backgrounds that complement their sneakers. And hashtags like #adidasoriginals and #zxflux keep Twitter and Instagram users up to date with the latest developments in the community.

Similarly, YouTube is a rich source of videos posted by customers to provide feedback on certain sneaker editions or to demonstrate the best way to lace the various models. These are a great way for adidas to track customer responses to new products and to observe emerging trends.

adidas embraced a very new approach in 2014 when it developed  a personalization app that invited customers to design their own footwear. For his shoe design, soccer legend Zinédine Zidane chose a picture of the backyard where he learned to play the game as a child. To make sure customers’ ideas and preferences aligned with the adidas brand strategy, customers were given a selection of possible materials, colors, and graphics to choose from.

For Lars Kampf, involving customers in the creative process is key: “The combination of graphics, materials, and colors ‒ the design ‒ creates both the emotional and the functional connection between the product and the customer.”

To find out more about the SAP Design Talks, visit the SAP User Experience Community.

Images via Jason Terschüren