Jason Mayden, Trillicon Valley

We had the chance to catch up with long time friend of the family Jason Mayden. We discussed everything from Nike and Stanford to the future of design with the idea of 'touchless' being heavy on his mind. We hope you learn as much as we did from our conversation with Jason. You can find more about what he's working on at Trillicon Valley and follow him on Jason Mayden on Instagram.

 Jason Mayden, Trillicon Valley

Have you ever noticed that Jason Mayden and Batman have never been seen in the same room together, at the same time? Suspicious, right? He has a lot in common with Batman too, both men have their own day (Mayden’s is March 17th, in Austin, TX – if you want to add it to your calendar) and both consider themselves “a regular guy”, yet both work incredibly hard to make the world a better place for future generations, and both are making history.

Mayden’s mission has always been to share his superpowers, to use them for good and to help today’s youth discover their own. Featured on multiple ‘most inspiring lists’, including Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and EBONY Power 100, Mayden’s being celebrated as one of the most inspiring and influential leaders who is impacting our world today.

Before graduating from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, MI, Mayden relentlessly pursued an opportunity to work at Nike, ultimately becoming the first African-American to become a design intern at Nike’s Beaverton, OR, headquarters. While working at Nike for 13 years, Mayden designed iconic footwear for athletes like Michael Jordan, working as both Jordan Brand’s Senior Global Design Director and Director of Innovation for Nike's Digital Sport division. To add to his list of accomplishments during those Nike years, Mayden also pursued a masters degree from Stanford University Graduate School of Business at the same time.

Most recently, Mayden is making his mark as the man behind the generation-shaping enterprise, Super Heroic, where he is CEO and Co-Founder of the company. A company that wears a lightning bolt as their Bat Symbol. Inspired by the struggles in confidence of his own children, Mayden has been the first to win multiple awards for designing the exclusive TMBLR sneaker, footwear designed and built specifically to “empower kids to unleash their full potential through creative play”. Mayden uses his creativity and talent to make a difference for a generation who needs it most. Combining his years of experience and knowledge with cutting edge technology, Mayden created the world’s first-ever performance shoe designed specifically for the playground, one that responds to kids’ unique movements. Over the past two years, Super Heroic has been awarded two official city proclamations in Stockton, CA – December 2nd, and in East Palo Alto, CA – August 26th. Both becoming “Super Heroic Day” and another set of dates for your calendar.

Mayden regularly speaks at conferences and on stages around the world, such as the Adobe 99U Conference, TEDx and Impact Theory, where he continues to spread his company’s important message and vision: to empower kids rather than restrict them, to build stronger children, and to show them AND the world what they’re capable of.

Keep your eyes peeled for the lightning and start practicing that superhero landing, so much more is yet to come.

 

Full Transcript 

Jeffrey Henderson: 00:00 You're good. I'm good. I'm going to just jump into the first conversation though because I was thinking about this for a while now. And I wanted to say thank you for all the conversations we've had, because I remember back when you were an intern coming in, jumping into Nike, and fast forwarding to even the time you were like, "Yo Jeff, why don't you take on this Kanye project?" And I was like, "Who?" Because I had just come back from Japan and I didn't know who that cat was.

Jeffrey Henderson: 00:28 So I think we've had a long history of conversation on everything. And I've always been appreciative of your push and your sort of focus, because we've again, talked about this. I just sort of show up. I like to draw shoes. I like to do stuff. You always come in with a point of view. And I'm curious, A, do you remember us meeting at all?

Jason Mayden: 00:54 Yeah. Yeah, I do, man. I remember when I first got to Nike, because we met briefly during my internship. It was really when I got there with cross training, when we all [inaudible 00:01:04]. And your cube was right outside of [inaudible 00:01:07] Scott's newly appointed office.

Jeffrey Henderson: 01:08 Yes, yes.

Jason Mayden: 01:08 And I remember when I came in, the magical black person at that time was Kevin [inaudible 00:01:16]. That brother just connected all of us.

Jeffrey Henderson: 01:17 Indeed.

Jason Mayden: 01:18 So I sat at the corner because I remember people would clown me because my desk was the closest to the elevator. And they were like, oh, they're going to think you're the receptionist. I'm like, I'm just going to see everybody first. Yeah, you remember that?

Jeffrey Henderson: 01:29 Its all coming back to me now.

Jason Mayden: 01:31 Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I was strategically positioned to see any and everybody that got off that elevator from athletes to executives. And I remember one week in, I see the black Benjamin Button, AKA Kevin Carroll walking past. And then he backpedals to my cube and said, "Hey, what are you doing here? You're a black person." And I was like, "That I am." And so we became friends and said, "You got to meet the other black person."

Jason Mayden: 01:56 And he walked me over to your area and E. Scott wasn't there, but you were there. And I remember you were wearing a knitted cap and a hoop earring. I said, "Oh, he's really black." I said, "He really is black. This is awesome." And yeah, I sat down and you showed me the Nike basketball stuff you were doing. You told me your story of how you studied engineering at Georgia Tech and how me going to design school and coming here as an intern was a first because there had never been someone that went through design school. It was usually engineering or you work your way in through other departments. And you told me to go talk to Ray Butts. And I went and talked to Ray Butts.

Jeffrey Henderson: 02:35 The Godfather.

Jason Mayden: 02:36 And yeah, man, yeah he literally is man.

Jeffrey Henderson: 02:37 The Godfather of design.

Jason Mayden: 02:40 He is. And that brother put me up on gaming. And I think we've been family ever since then, man, since that moment.

Jeffrey Henderson: 02:45 That is hilarious. That is ... Yeah. It's like a short number of people that you had to meet. But once you met them, you were good. And I think that is a ... What's funny is me giving you the thought that you're the first person to get in that way, because the reality is, there were only three people before you, or four people before you. It wasn't like it was a laundry list of ways to get in. E. Scott already had a hundred years of experience. Dwayne had a hundred years of experience. Wilson came in right out of, I don't know, University of Oregon, first class. And I showed up in engineering. So you just sort of came in with, oh, you came in the normal route. You had an internship. I didn't know black folk could get in that way.

Jason Mayden: 03:29 Seriously bro, I was shocked too. I'm like, I felt like Soldier Boy when you say Drake. I'm like an internship. Internship? Bro, I was so shocked. I was like, how? And then yeah, then I realized that there was no structure. There was no system. And the system that was in place was to find an athlete, but not the creative. And so following y'all I had ... I really took it serious. I couldn't be the last because y'all kept telling me, you're the first. But in my mind I'm like shoot, I don't want to be the last. This is crazy. And so yeah man, I just tried to follow y'all lead as best as I could.

Jeffrey Henderson: 04:03 No, you did more than that. You did more than that. Was it ... When you got in, you got hit with people who gave you some pointers. Did you have a strategy coming in like, I want to do this. I want to do that. Did it change when you landed?

Jason Mayden: 04:17 No man. I had a very strict strategy. So the thing that I don't really often talk about is how I ended up in design. I think that kind of sets the context. So I was actually headed to Georgia Tech as well man to double major in mechanical and electrical engineering. And I had figured at that point, in my mind it was analogous experiences, right? If I could learn how to make a car, then I can apply that to making anything because in my mind I thought, car design was the biggest thing you can do. At least in the Midwest that's what they talked about. Because I was hit by a drunk driver and I had also transferred high schools my senior year. So my track and field coaches, I refused to play any other sports. My track and field coaches were like, yo, you're not going to play football.

Jason Mayden: 04:57 You're not going to do this. You're not going to do that. You're running track. You're throwing shot put. We see you drawing sneakers. You sure you want to go and do mechanical and electrical engineering? We think you should do industrial design. So they gave me an article about this kid named Shihwae Lee, who interned at Nike. He also interned at Toyota and did a car design competition and won. And it became the basis of the Rav4. He went to school in Detroit. I didn't know any of this. I called Toyota in Japan on a Friday from the athletic director's office. Didn't have a clue about international time zones. I thought it was Friday everywhere. They called me back on that Monday or Sunday and left a message. I ended up speaking to I think at the time one of the executives in design, and he mentioned to me Art Center and CCS.

Jason Mayden: 05:42 I told him about Chicago. He kept it a buck with me and said, look, the average age is 30 for industrial design because people usually go back after they get a degree and realize that industrial design is really where they want to go.

Jeffrey Henderson: 05:52 Wow.

Jason Mayden: 05:53 Yeah. And he was like, you're 16, 17 coming out of high school. You're going to be outworked because these people have got families. They're not there to play. Are you competitive? And I laughed. I said, I'm from the South side of Chicago dog. I ain't worried about competition. And I put my portfolio together, gave up the chance to go to Tech and ended up driving to Detroit with my parents to go and try to talk my way or finesse my way into CCS. Got in on probation because I didn't have a true portfolio. So my strategy became okay, if I get my internship at Nike, I've been writing letters since I was a kid, I want to spend my twenties building a global network.

Jason Mayden: 06:31 I'm going to take less money. I'm not going to try to push to get the big pay raises, but I want Nike to send me all around the world so I could build a network of people that I then could go and interact with. And I learned that from you because I remember you told me you wanted to have people who ... You want your kids to have a friend or somewhere they can go in every country on the planet. And I was like, man, I haven't ever heard anybody say that. So I'm like, I want that to. I want my kids to be able to have international friends and relationships. So I just traveled a lot in my 20's on Nike's dime to see the world, to meet people, to learn about the culture.

Jason Mayden: 07:03 And then my goal was to say, okay, in my twenties, get my master's degree before I turn 30. And then use my network to then create a business or businesses. So then I can use my thirties to kind of monetize my network, and in my forties grow my net worth. And so I've stuck to that plan my entire life. My twenties was experiences. Thirties was education and monetization of my network. Now I'm entering into my forties this year. I turned 40 in October, and I'm going to start to now monetize everything I've done to build generational wealth. So I've just been following a combination of all of y'all blueprints man, but in my own way.

Jeffrey Henderson: 07:39 That's wild to think about. I think the amount of people who actually work at Nike and the limited number of people who made things happen and all of our plans that we had, if we'd have stayed, how wild that would be.

Jason Mayden: 07:57 Man.

Jeffrey Henderson: 07:57 But it was sort of early on. I had that same thing of like ... And I think these are the conversations that we had. And oddly enough, Ray Butts is the one who set that in motion. And he's the one who's still there. Is that I knew going in that all right, I didn't really have a plan of whether I was going to stay at Nike forever or not. But like your point, there were things I needed to get out of the swoosh, whether they wanted me to get it out of them or not. And so living in Japan, check the box. Working in marketing, check the box. Things that I didn't get paid to work in marketing, but I went and sat with them enough to where I figured out how the world worked.

Jeffrey Henderson: 08:31 Getting those elements out of that giant company. And then when they're like, yo, you want to stay and take this job? And it's like, no, I think I've graduated. So I'm going to move on. I think is kind of very key. And I know you sort of ... Exploit is a terrible word, but you took advantage of those moments by far. And it was funny, the conversation we had before when I was like, about being a Nike alumni. And you were like, no, that's not the word I would use. And you used the word survivor. Tell me about that.

Jason Mayden: 09:06 Yeah, man. It is true, man. You survive the swoosh if you got there early 2000's, late '90s. Because I don't think people realize Nike wasn't a global brand at that moment. It was still functioning like a startup that was well known in North America, but it didn't have international respect. The athletes did, but the company, it was number two, number three in Europe, behind Adidas in a lot of categories. We didn't have a presence in soccer or what we call global football. We didn't really have an offense beyond running and basketball. Cross training was a thing, but at that point people were like, cross training isn't a sport. How do you play cross training? And then we see CrossFit coming out. So it was at a very pivotal point when Nike was going from being a cool teenager to having to be an adult.

Jason Mayden: 09:49 And this adult had a lot of money, a lot of power, but no guidance. And so if you give any person that's 22, billions of dollars, they're going to do some wild stuff. And they're going to have a different way of seeing the world. So I got there at the same time as Nike reached it's early twenties, I was in my early twenties. And with that, you make a lot of emotional decisions, which often when you look back, you'll be like, dang, I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't have done that. So I had to be the prototype for what the future Nike employee would be. So a lot of the mistakes they made on me, the younger generation or the ones that came after us who are "the cultural cool kids," they benefit from all the failings and leadership that were experimented on with people like myself.

Jason Mayden: 10:33 So all these kids who are hot Sketchers who come from Art Center and CCS, all that wouldn't be there dude, if I didn't get punched in the stomach a bunch of times as a guy who was like, wait, why aren't we going back to our sponsor studios? Why aren't we going back and giving resources to these kids in inner cities through competitions? And so when I say survivor, it's because imagine having your whole life, right ... I grew up on the South side of Chicago, was given very good instruction from a close-knit family on how to be respectful, how to carry myself, how to be unapologetically authentic. And then you get to Nike at this moment and people are penalizing you for your youth. I came in around the same time they gave LeBron 90 million, and they wouldn't give me a $5000 pay increase.

Jason Mayden: 11:20 So I always was like, how ... I get LeBron, but there is no him if we're not building product in the brand to support him. So it was this weird moment of, they were betting on youth, but they were selectively betting on youth. And for a person like me at that time when I was more emotional and not as strategic as I am now, I took it as like, damn, I'm good enough to be here, but not good enough to be rewarded for what I do, or encouraged to stay. It's like, once you got there, you no longer were the consumer. And what I found to be wild about it is the advice y'all gave me, helped me navigate that system. One thing y'all told me is, never go where one of us have been, meaning black people. If one of us have been like, you lived in Japan? I would never ask to live in Japan because then they're going to compare us.

Jeffrey Henderson: 12:05 Right.

Jason Mayden: 12:05 So I'm like, cool. I'm going to stick over here. I'm going to go into the research side. I'm going to go to Europe and look at supply chain. We all were able to have our own chance to be measured against ourselves. We all had our first things. You know what I'm saying? We all were first at something, and we strategically talked about who can be first at what, and supported that. So the survivor part is, yeah man, when you're at a fast-growing company that has a lot of societal privilege and a lot of influence and a lot of money, but very little structure and very little leadership training because people confuse and conflate the title of a leader with the behavior of a leader. Just because you've got a title, doesn't mean you have the skillset to lead. And a lot of folks were rapidly promoted as the company grew, but they had poor leadership skills. And until they put the system in place in mid 2000's after the big layoffs, people weren't really being managed. People were being facilitated. We facilitated personalities, we didn't manage them. And that's what I mean by surviving.

Jeffrey Henderson: 13:03 Well, we all knew ... Right. There was also a promotion of, did you draw a hot shoe? Let's promote you.

Jason Mayden: 13:06 Yeah.

Jeffrey Henderson: 13:06 Did you market a hot program? Let's promote you.

Jason Mayden: 13:08 Yeah.

Jeffrey Henderson: 13:08 And they didn't really look to see whether or not you had the skillset. And they didn't divide conversations into, you know what, you're a very creative senior designer. Let's pay you to be a very creative senior designer. We don't have to make you a creative director. I think that's the part where they sort of ... It took them a while to get to that point where ... Because I was there when they divided the responsibility of creative director and design manager. That was one job. So there were people who were immensely talented in being a creative, but they weren't about to go ask HR to get a raise for you. And once they sort of figured out pieces like that, I think that became a little better.

Jeffrey Henderson: 13:45 I think by the time you arrive, they'd figured out some of the plan, but to your point, they hadn't figured out everything. And we were all sort of like Guinea pigs to the design world because that was ... Yeah, by the time we moved it to me [inaudible 00:13:58] it had already changed. Before that, design was part of the business unit.

Jason Mayden: 14:03 Oh it still was at that point, yeah.

Jeffrey Henderson: 14:05 Right. But we all sat with the business units.

Jason Mayden: 14:09 Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jeffrey Henderson: 14:09 So then it became Mia Hamm, that was the first separation. I think that's what [inaudible 00:14:14] that sort of hope pulled off as like, well let's not even sit with them. And then it became, we don't even report to them. And that took another 10 years to pull off.

Jason Mayden: 14:22 Six years, yeah. Eight years.

Jeffrey Henderson: 14:24 So, but it became the beginning of design is a different conversation. But no matter where you landed, there was still so few of us that we ended up in a way I think being our own internal creative sort of management unit. We had this conversation just a couple of days ago about, we all went to the same HR person. No matter what group we were in, we had the same person telling us, this is how you have the conversation because she was the one who looked for us by far. Ray butts was the godfather, she was the godmother.

Jeffrey Henderson: 14:55 Making sure we all knew, this is what you asked for. And this is how you have a conversation. Because we didn't really have that background. And it wasn't even a background. It was just that we weren't in those meetings. And we weren't going to dinners on the weekends with people who would tell us how it worked. And that I think was the missing link because whenever people talk about diversity it's like, yeah we can bring it 35 Jason Maydens in the entry level. But if there's no Jason Mayden high enough up to instruct what those 35 at the bottom are doing, they might have some bigger issues, and that's not helpful.

Jeffrey Henderson: 15:29 So I think that's the part where when you talk about ... Because we've been having this conversation about trauma on a lot of reasons, especially with COVID-19. I think that's where, when you say surviving Nike is definitely like, what can you get out of it? I know, and we all had this moment when we're like, you know what? I'm done. But when you had the, I'm done, that doesn't mean you leave. That means you sort of absorb as much information, knowledge, build as many, as much talent and fill that toolbox as you can while you're there. And I think you did ... For me, and it was strange before us, I went to Japan and that made no sense to anybody.

Jason Mayden: 16:07 No.

Jeffrey Henderson: 16:07 You trumped that and was like, I'm going to go to Stanford. How did you come to that sort of conclusion to put that in your toolbox?

Jason Mayden: 16:15 Oh man, that's a great question. Well, I knew that designers would need to understand business in order to kind of be prepared for the market because the thing I saw Nike forcing people towards was skillset acquisition. And if you come from neighborhoods where skillsets only get you so far, right? Yeah, I could be a mechanic, but if I don't have a strategy and knowing when the market turns down, how to keep putting food on my table, what happens when nobody's using a car anymore? I'm a mechanic, but what value do I have? And I felt like because we were so excited to be together, we were so excited to be pushing to have our own reporting structure, Hoke was starting to push to have a P&L, like an actual financial contribution beyond cost centers.

Jason Mayden: 17:03 We were actually starting to be margin accretive, not just brand accretive. And I'm like, okay, I just got out of design school. And if I'm at Nike and designers are excited that they finally get to do 3D, and it was mandatory for me to learn 3D in undergrad. I'm like, this is crazy. They're six years behind where the world is at in terms of the skillsets that designers need to be valuable. And so I started to just kind of understand two things to be true. I've never been a person that actually wanted to fit in. I've never been so desperate to want to be cool. So I was like, I'm going to hang out with designers anyway because I work with them. I'd rather hang out with the people who control the money, the people who can tell me, no.

Jason Mayden: 17:42 So my strategy became, I need to eliminate the way people can tell me no very quickly. And so I started sitting with finance, I started sitting with supply chain. I started sitting with corporate compliance and strategy. And what I realized is that people will be like, I can't believe a designer wants to come hang out with us. And this is a lot of our conversations, Jeff. You would just pop up and hang out with pattern engineers and be cool with them. And I'm like, hey, okay. All right. So what's the thing I'm interested in and who are the people that would be excited to see a creative come to ask them questions? So I figured it was the business operation side. No one from design had ever spent time with those folks in biz ops. And when I started digging in, I was like, okay, I need to understand how Nike was built in order to know how to navigate the system effectively.

Jason Mayden: 18:27 So I started to do more research about where Phil Knight went to school because he learned how to build a company somewhere. And I was like, where did he learn how to do this? And I wanted to kind of get a sense of what he'd learned and how he did it so I could do it for myself at some point. So I initially had got into ... Started down the path of going to an East coast school that shall remain nameless. And I was ... Because [inaudible 00:18:51]. And I was very close to being part of that family, wonderful school. And one of my mentors, Gina Warren ... I had told no one, I was applying to grad school. She was the first one to tell me, hey, Nike has a program where they could potentially reimburse you. I didn't realize that she was just telling me to talk to people at Nike.

Jason Mayden: 19:09 I was like, I already took the GMAT. I'm going to apply to get to Stanford. So I applied, I got in. It was a big internal controversy like, oh my gosh, your designer is going to get a business degree and Nike's going to pay for it. Why should we do this with you? And there was a question asked of me by David Ayre, who was the head of HR at that time. He said, Jason, why should we use a hammer when the solution should be a screwdriver? We could just send you to running and you can learn more about running. And that's how you can grow in this company. And I said, David, if we're going to be a global company, don't you think that the future leaders should have access to other global leaders from different industries? And I would bring that information back here and we'll be a better company because of that?

Jason Mayden: 19:49 And he was like, okay, you clearly prepared to have this conversation. I'm going to prove it. Because I knew that they would question, why would a person who draws sneakers go to business school? But they didn't do any background research on me and realize that I'm an analytical person. I was a math kid. So it wasn't ... Drawing was one of the things I can do. And I started to see certain leaders play political games to jockey for power in a new structure. And I was like, okay, if I understand the structure and the system that they're playing in, I understand the person who created it, I have a better chance at navigating it and keeping my self-worth intact. So went to the Stanford business school, graduate school of business. I understand intimately how and why Phil Knight structured Nike the way it was. How and why Phil Knight structured the incentive model, like the distribution, the supply chain. Coming to Stanford and having a Nike background and being an athlete, you can see exactly why he was able to do what he did with the way they educate people here.

Jason Mayden: 20:49 And once I realized, Holy crap, I get it. Phil Knight built something that if people are watching, they can learn how to build their own. This system is an open Wikipedia page, if you just know how to study it. And I studied it. And it was a blessing because Mr. Knight was the one who paid for me to go to grad school. Mr. Jordan paid for me to go out of their own individual money. They supported me. I went and spoke at the Coaches hall of fame induction ceremony for Mr. Knight in New York. It was Coach [inaudible 00:21:21] and me, which was crazy. And Mr. Knight cried and sent me a letter afterwards. It was beautiful, man because he sat me down before I quit and was like, Jason, don't just settle for working at Nike. Go and create your own. And I'm thinking to myself, this is the founder of Nike telling me to go create my own. Do what's right for my family. I felt so encouraged by that conversation. And it was crazy.

Jeffrey Henderson: 21:45 I think what's wild about Nike and kind of anywhere is that when you first get in, there's this vibe of like, yo, I'm just happy to get in. And then you walk around and talk to people and you realize there's a bunch of people who are happy to get in. And if you ... I don't know if it's if you're lucky or the right person looks at you, but some people look at you like, you could do more. So don't be like everybody else. And you're like, I just made it to the league and you're telling me I should work harder so I can be a starter. And to some degree I like that. But some people don't get told that. And for me it was sort of like, it was a little bit perplexing because I would go in and I would complain about how things were working to John Hoke.

Jeffrey Henderson: 22:27 And John Hoke would look at me like, is that you or is that everybody else? And I'd be like, what do you mean? People are struggling, yada, yada, yada. He goes, but can you do this? And I was like, I guess. And once you figure out that folks expect more from you, then you start living up to that. I think the trouble is, you start living beyond what that place can even do with an individual. And the smart people are like, you should go do that. We're holding you back. And I think that's the part where folks sort of looked at me like, we don't have a position for you to play. There's no job for what it is you know how to do here. If you decide to go somewhere else, we got no issue. And it takes, are y'all trying to kick me out kind of vibe?

Jeffrey Henderson: 23:14 And I wasn't sure. I think going to Japan was a little bit ... That position was built for a creative director or a VP. Nobody wanted it because to your point, it was sort of made up. It was a made up job in a city that Mark Parker loved that had a business, but they weren't allowed to make stuff for Japan. And they had like three creative directors and VPs on the list. All I know is Richard Clark was the main dude. And he was like, that's a made up job because I went and asked him, Richard, why aren't you going? He was like, it's a made up job. It's supposed to fail.

Jeffrey Henderson: 23:50 He says it's supposed to fail, but he was like, it's not built to win. It wasn't made to survive. I was new and young. I was like, yo, I could be in Oregon or I could be in Tokyo. Easy decision. And because I did more than survive, I sort of did well, it sort of wrote my path for Nike. But it also helped me look up and be like, yo, there's probably more out there. Let's see what this tastes like. So I think we sort of did more to survive when we left. The question for you now is, you added that piece to your toolbox even on the swoosh. What are you adding to your toolbox at this moment?

Jason Mayden: 24:29 Oh man, great question. I think so that what I strategically did and very purposefully did when I came back to the Silicon Valley was rebranded myself away from being a footwear designer and being viewed as a creative leader. Because I think there's limited market opportunities for people who say they only can design a singular product. I think that's stupid. And it's a waste of what design truly is. It's about discovery. It's about question asking, but a lot of the designers now are being tricked to fall in love with the solution over falling in love with the process of discovering a problem.

Jason Mayden: 25:03 So I came here to reposition myself in a way that says, yes, I've done this work at Nike. However, you can drop me into any system and I can perform. So that's why I deviated to the far left of consumer traditional kind of street wear, basketball sport culture and went hard into hardware analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, multi-time plex spectroscopy using light to detect allergens in liquid. Using machine learning to understand sentiment analysis and audience engagement for influencers.

Jason Mayden: 25:36 And then now what I did with Super Heroic looking at behavioral psychology and self-association and behavior change through the lens of what people call psychogenic death, which is the science of giving up. How do you encourage people to not give up, but more or less double down and seek the outcome that biases towards the positive version of who they want to be. So I've switched and started to reengage the nerd side of Jason, the academic side, because I think people thought that because I'm from the inner city, because I do cool stuff with cool people that I'm not into reading academic journals and understanding data and going to symposiums. Before going to a Ted Talk was culturally cool, I was giving Ted Talks. You know what I'm saying? So it's like not to say I helped swing a culture.

Jason Mayden: 26:22 [inaudible 00:26:22] I think is a lot of people. But the cool thing to be when I was a kid was not a nerd. Now it's cool to be a nerd. And so if I'm a black person or a blerd, a black nerd, and I'm looking for someone who understands culture, who knows how to carry themselves, but can have a deep intellectual conversation. I'm not looking at Neil deGrasse Tyson. I'm not. I can't relate to him. He's out of my reach. So who can we turn to, right, that wants to have these conversations? And so just like in footwear where I was the young kid and learned from you guys, I'm like, okay, that needs to be that same person in technology and entrepreneurship because the culture will have its turn within entrepreneurship and technology. And that turn is happening now.

Jason Mayden: 27:04 And I just want it to be part of the next wave because I always want to be employable for what's going to happen next. I don't look at what have happened. I start to prepare for what will happen next. So I got to go to the areas where people are doing the research and have the money to kind of push through what they want to be next. And so that's what I'm adding to my toolbox now, man. Is a more extended network, multiple areas to generate income, but at the same time, continuous access to data and research that can help me inform where I can place my Gibson, my talents next.

Jeffrey Henderson: 27:40 I think that's a ... The piece you brought up about, especially what you did with Super Heroic, I think it's interesting of how many people fully understood the complexity of what you did, which was one half of the coin was it was sneakers. It was. Footlocker was part of it. It was a shoe you put on. For me, I never saw it that way because it was about a behavioral science conversation. It was first and foremost that, so I never saw it as a shoe as much of it was ... It began with I think the conversation with [inaudible 00:28:17]. And I got it as that. And I think that's the part that a lot of creatives are missing out on that particular sense of obligation, social awareness. To your point, the nerd stuff that's going into what's coming. And the reality is, this virus has shut down a lot of conversations about what's the hottest color coming out next.

Jeffrey Henderson: 28:41 If it's not about, I don't know, helping people in Flint with water, then why am I that interested in it? And I think you touch upon a lot of those conversations in the nerd community that before might've been like, eh, I don't really care. We were having this considered and Nike saving the planet. They were doing that 20 years ago.

Jason Mayden: 29:01 Yeah.

Jeffrey Henderson: 29:02 There were people in offices working on that product, but it wasn't sexy. The reality is from a business standpoint, not even a save the world standpoint, from a business standpoint, if creatives aren't focusing some of their firepower. If designers aren't going, you know what? I could put a hot lens flare on this sketch or some Photoshop work. That's less about the conversation and more about yo, am I learning the proper material guidance to figure out how to use less to make more? If that's not part of their conversation, I think it's going to be a miss from a business standpoint. You're going to not be the cool kid just because you show up with some designs that look hot on Instagram. That's no longer I think the price of entry to get into a place that's about to support your product.

Jeffrey Henderson: 29:51 What I usually say to people is that, you should hang out with anybody who will spend money to make the thing you draw, because to actually build that thing, everybody can sketch now. And everybody has an iPad and everybody has something, a piece of paper, they can draw something. To have somebody actually put money towards some molds to help make that thing, bring it to life and then take it to retail and then put it on people's feet, that's a huge gift. Roll with that. In the beginning, you then can build that into a business, understanding how it works, but you got to make something that people want to actually have built on this planet.

Jeffrey Henderson: 30:26 And another color of another thing that is just something going on another person with 100000 followers, that's not really true conversation.

Jason Mayden: 30:37 Not at all.

Jeffrey Henderson: 30:38 Going forward.

Jason Mayden: 30:40 No.

Jeffrey Henderson: 30:40 It's sort of what the future of ... That's what I said. What you are putting in your toolbox now is I believe not what everybody's hearing about in order to grow. I think they're still like, oh yeah, you should love Adobe Illustrator. That is a positive thing no doubt. However, that's not the end of the story. So in your mind now I know you're looking at a few things in terms of your next steps. But in terms of like what opportunities are out there for everybody, are you seeing anything that people should start focusing and targeting on if they want to be a creative?

Jason Mayden: 31:19 Absolutely. I think the most critical piece that creatives are going to have to start to think about is not drawing. It's not 3D modeling. It's not style. It's intentionality because the thing that happened and is happening is this is the first time in a very long time that we've had a global shared traumatic experience. Traumatic experiences hard-code in our DNA, trauma, right? It's wild the black race has so much preexisting health conditions because we have genetic predisposition to trauma embedded in our DNA. High blood pressure, diabetes, stress, hypertension, all that stuff is a result of generational trauma that has been unaddressed and untreated. So you're looking at a generation of people, specifically kids. And I was just telling my children about this. They kind of stare at me like dad, you go off this tangent, but they're going to be profound people when they become adults.

Jason Mayden: 32:15 And they'll thank me. So we just got comfortable with saying what sociologists have called the younger generation, generation alpha and generation Z. The problem with that nomenclature is that there's going to be a fracture in that trajectory for those people in generation alpha, which is essentially the interaction generation where they don't have to touch anything. They don't have to ... It's very automated. It's, they're enhanced through technology. That's why they call them gen alpha. But within that gen alpha is going to be a subset of people. People, the children born right now are going to grow up in a touch-less society, right? A surveyed society by tracking people in surveillance, which is normal. In China it's going to be the global norm. They're going to grow up with people building vertical gardens off their homes versus going to grocery stores. They're going to go back to having some things based on a barter economy versus the Fiat monetary system, which is collapsing right in front of us because it's not backed by the gold standard.

Jason Mayden: 33:16 It's not backed by anything substantial. Digital currency. People being immersed in virtual environments as a way to escape because being outside is a risk to their health. So when you have this fracture, the sociological intent, you're going to have to reestablish or establish new design ethos for this generation. Remember, our design principles are based on the Industrial Revolution. Now our design principles are being pushed towards the automation revolution. But what happens now in this moment where our design principles have to be based on an automated touch-less revolution or evolution in human interaction? We've never thought about that. We've thought about human computer interaction, HCI. We've thought about automation and artificial intelligence and machine learning, but we've never thought about a world where we can't physically touch people. We can't physically hug. You can't physically show affection.

Jason Mayden: 34:13 So these normal rites of passages that help children orient themselves within a family structure will be viewed with the sense of skepticism. What happens now, right, when you ... Are you afraid to sit on a relative's lap and read a book because if that relative is sick they may pass it to the child, right? These things that we take for granted in our childhood, hugging our parents, getting a kiss on the cheek from our grandmother or the lady at church with a mustache and red lipstick. Like, aw, look at the baby. That's not going to happen as much. And so I think designers really have to dig into psychology and look at the only analogous experience that we can measure and learn from is the 1920s, which is funny because it's a 100 year cycle for everything, pandemics and economic downturn. But what happened in the 1920s, it wasn't driven through celebrity culture.

Jason Mayden: 35:00 It was driven through Nobel laureates and industrialists. It's how you got the Andrew Carnegie's. It's how you got the Rockefellers was on the back of the depression, on the back of the Spanish flu. So I ask everybody, do you remember the top selling music artists in 1920? Can you name them? No. No, but you remember the people who built industries from the 1920s because we talk about them today.

Jason Mayden: 35:22 So the designers of today need to move far away from just focusing on the influencer culture, which I think has pervasively entered into design in a very sickening way. And look towards the industrialist, the people who are going to help to shift, create or expand new industries and be part of that narrative. So you can ask yourself, yo, the people aren't going outside anymore. Do I really care about working at a car company? Or do I want to work on going to interior design and build homes that are built for people who are staying at home? Build better communities that are built for me interacting within a short distance, a five mile range of my house on foot as that's my neighborhood now.

Jason Mayden: 36:02 It's five miles from my house it's safe, and then everything else I'm exploring online. That's the stuff that designers should look at. Look at sociology, look at economics, understand how markets work, understand how law works because all those things are the rules of how we will create because design is governed by law, by economics and raw materials. But we don't study it though. And so I encourage designers to study the system that you're playing in so then you can learn how to win successfully. We think that winning is drawing something dope and getting it made. No, bro. But when the global supply chain collapses and you can't get the same resources or materials, how are you going to build what you want to build if you don't know what to look for?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published