Widgets Magazine

Kickin’ It with Jason Mayden

Courtesy of SoleCollector

I’m going to focus on the 180 seconds in my life that started the race towards my destiny,” said designer and Stanford grad Jason Mayden. “It was an event that’s rather played out in impoverished neighborhoods, but for me, it became the catalyst towards my goals and dreams.”


At TEDxStanford 2012 this coming Saturday, Mayden will share with the Stanford community how this life-changing experience set him on the correct path toward achieving his goal of designing Air Jordan sneakers. Current director of innovation for Nike Inc.’s Digital Sport, Mayden will exhibit the various steps to success he has taken, ranging from community involvement to his fellowship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB).


A native of the South Side of Chicago, Mayden grew up with a knack for two things: sports and creativity. In love with sneaker culture, Mayden aspired to the ultimate goal in footwear: to design Air Jordan sneakers. To accomplish this goal, Mayden packed his bags and left for design school, where he majored in industrial design with a minor in graphic design.


“I got an internship at Nike, and there I immediately began to work towards my goal of designing the Air Jordan,” Mayden said.


Working his way up the corporate food chain, Mayden eventually achieved that goal, obtaining the position of senior footwear/innovation designer for Jordan Brand. Mayden’s creativity shines through in pairs of J’s such as the “Old School” and the “Air Jordan 2009,” as well as signature kicks for L.A. Clippers point guard, Chris Paul, and New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter. However, Mayden’s aspirations did not end at Jordan. He aimed his sights higher and applied to the Stanford GSB.


“Stanford, to me, was just as big of a destination or opportunity as Nike was,” Mayden said. “I knew it was a place where I could become what I wanted to become. I knew Phil Knight [the founder of Nike] had attended the Graduate School of Business, and it was always in the back of my mind as the place where dreams come true.”


In 2010, Mayden entered the GSB as a Sloan Fellow and received a master’s degree in science with a concentration in general management. For a couple of years, Mayden was another student on campus who loved to chill in the same places students today know and love.


Courtesy of SoleCollector

“I was always sneaking my way over to Arrillaga to play ball or hang out,” he said. “Another interesting place is Tresidder! I loved it. I loved sitting there and just people-watching. Looking at all the people come and go, wondering to myself, what are their goals? What are their dreams?”


With an obvious interest in people, it is no wonder Mayden is inclined toward community involvement. At Jordan, he was the lead designer for the Doernbecher Freestyle, a project with Nike and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.


“[The Doernbecher footwear] directly connects to a charity and to kids that need it the most,” he said. “I’m so fortunate to be a part of the process, and each year that’s my favorite shoe. There’s nothing more special to me than seeing a kid’s face light up when they see this design or sketch that’s inspired by them and to make them feel like they’re the celebrities, that they’re the athletes — I would look at that as the best product that I’ve worked on.”


In addition to his work for the Doernbecher project, Mayden is a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, he has a different take on his mentoring role.


“Most people give back to help those who are less fortunate,” he said. “I give back because I feel like I would be less fortunate if I didn’t allow myself to learn and see what other people are struggling with and what other people are concerned about. I remind myself of how much more I can give, how blessed I am and how far I’ve come. It really keeps me grounded and focused on identifying what’s best. I don’t look at is as giving back; I look at it as mentoring and cultivating the next generation of great, responsible, ethical leaders.”


Blessed with artistic inspiration and a drive for success, Mayden has succeeded in ways others have only dreamed of. His story of achievement continues to this day, as he currently holds the role of director of innovation at the developing Nike Digital Sport. His focus on great things to come runs parallel to his wish to collaborate with such innovators as the street artist Banksy, fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


High aspirations in impressive company exhibit Mayden’s way of thinking – a way of thinking that is evident in the advice he offers to Stanford students.


“Dream out loud,” he said. “A lot of times, when you go to a university, so many people have big dreams and big goals, but what’s funny about it is that so many people keep it inside of themselves because they don’t know if people will think their goals are attainable. At Stanford, people are typically more outspoken than the average person, so you have the ability to dream out loud.”


An athlete, artist, designer, mentor, observer and collaborator, Jason Mayden has experienced quite a bit. The events that sparked him to leave Chicago and the paths that have led him to Jordan, Nike and Stanford will be unveiled on Saturday, May 19, at his TEDxStanford talk.