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Where art meets athletics
August 23, 2012
|Joshua Iverson '01 — pictured here at a Nike photo shoot last year, where he saved the day when the shoes didn't fit the real model — parlayed his interests in football, philosophy, and art into a job designing athletic apparel.|
As a student at St. Olaf College, Joshua Iverson '01 was a football player and philosophy major who took as many art classes as he could.
Today he's parlayed those diverse interests — and the opportunities he had to pursue them on the Hill — into a career as a designer at Nike, where he develops the look of college football uniforms across the nation.
And as players hit the field to prepare for the upcoming season, Iverson's most recent work is on display.
He designed the University of Minnesota's new brick-patterned uniforms that pay tribute to Memorial Stadium ("The Brick House") and the "brick-by-brick" work ethic of the team. He's also the mastermind behind the uniforms the United States Naval Academy used for its annual football showdown with the United States Military Academy last year, as well as Texas Christian University's reptilian-themed uniforms.
"We do a tremendous amount of research for each design. Football has so many rich traditions and great stories to tell that there's almost limitless inspiration," Iverson says. "In the end it's really about each school and telling their story, not just some fashion trend or cool design."
We asked Iverson to set down his drawing pad and answer a few questions about the road he took to his dream job at Nike.
When did you first connect art and sports?
Ever since I can remember, I've been drawing pictures. Most of the time it was of my sports heroes from magazines or trading cards. Looking back, it probably isn't that big of a surprise that this is pretty much what I do now at Nike. I always wanted to look and play like the superstars in college and the NFL, so I had to get the latest gear and shoes (Nike, of course), and I was always tweaking the jersey, pads, and helmet to be lighter, tighter, or just look better.
How did you end up at Nike?
I took a chance, left a really good design job in Minnesota, and followed my girlfriend out to Oregon in 2006. I thought someday I might get in at Nike, but I ended up getting hired by a freelance agency and was placed at Nike within a week. My first project was for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, after which I got pulled in to work on the Nike Pro Combat line and the athletic training category. I was finally hired officially by Nike in 2008. From there I had the opportunity to design football T-shirt graphics and eventually uniforms with the first Nike Pro Combat uniforms. When the NFL deal was signed, Nike created a new football category and design team, which is where I am now. Some luck and a lot of great people here at Nike have helped me get where I am, but I also think my passion, work ethic, and willingness to take on anything has led to the success I've had so far. I've always followed my passions, and now that mix of sports, art, design, and liberal arts has turned into a dream job.
If you could memorialize in a uniform your time playing football at St. Olaf, what direction might you take?
Blood, sweat, and tears! We didn't win as much as we should've, but I will never forget the great guys on those teams, how hard we worked, and how much fun it all was.
You've designed uniforms for major college football programs like the Naval Academy, Ohio State, Oregon, and most recently the University of Minnesota. Any chance you'll bring your talents to a Division III school like St. Olaf? Our team almost went to the NCAA championships last year . . .
Congrats to the Oles on all the success the last few years, especially last year. It's a dream job working at Nike, and my education at St. Olaf definitely helped me get here. It's awesome to be able to give back and design uniforms for universities, and I would be honored to do so for St. Olaf should the opportunity ever come about.