Populous at Adidas’ “Designer Days”

February 25, 2013

This past month, I was honored to present at Adidas’ annual “Designer Days” at the North American headquarters in Portland, Ore.  This event kicks off the company’s strategic design initiative for the year and offers a unique professional development opportunity for Adidas designers across the globe. The company brings in presenters, creative thinkers and innovators in a variety of industries to inspire their designers and encourage them to draw inspiration from others’ work.

Our creative process is closely aligned with that of Adidas – we value innovation first and are constantly pushed internally to explore and discuss what is to come in the next generation of sport and venue design. Beyond similarities in our approach to our work, we also share an industry and a profession. As designers in the sports industry, we have an important responsibility- we are helping to shape the future of sport by designing a better fan experience. Our work is similar, whether we’re considering what athletes will be wearing or the buildings where they are playing.

At the heart of the presentation was the idea of creating something authentic for our audience- whether that’s an apparel system or a ballpark. But what does this entail? How do we go about creating something that is truly authentic – something that is absolutely essential to people and place?  And where, collectively, will brands like Adidas and firms like Populous take the sports industry?  Below are the key factors that I anticipate will drive innovation in our industry for the coming decade:

  • The next generation of fans.
    Fans no longer come to a game and are satisfied solely with an ‘in-seat’ experience.  The next generation of experientialist fans expect the stadium to be a high-performance entertainment destination. They expect social gathering spaces outside their seats and are constantly in pursuit of unique opportunities to engage with athletes and other fans
  • Interconnectivity.
    Fans are accustomed to sharing via social media and emerging technology, leading to more interconnectivity. Advances in smart uniform systems will capture and transmit data directly to mobile devices, new broadcasting platforms will emerge, 3D and virtual technology will become a major player and applications that allow for instant replays, unique stats and concierge style service will help to create a more technologically advanced, interconnected experience.
  • Convergence.
    Finally, the convergence of athlete, fan and stadium has and will continue to require designers of all sorts to think outside of the box. If smart uniform systems are widely adapted, architects must consider how this impacts stadium design. All of this will inform a more dynamic, experiential stadium environment that reacts in a more real time manner to spectator demands, on-field action and technology platforms.

Our buildings and Adidas’ designs are opportunities for thousands of moments of engagement and discovery that can powerfully connect fans to athletes, brands and one another. Each point of human interaction within the network must be mapped and purposely designed to infuse the brand and positively impact the visitor experience.  This experiential network extends far beyond the boundaries of the physical stadium and game day itself and will be the driving force behind innovation in sports.


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