As a boy playing street football, I could run! But on one particular day, the day I got my new shoes, I really turned on the jets! That’s the day my buddies nicknamed me Halley’s comet, after that famous one (never mind my name’s spelled with one L). It’s amazing what those new shoes did for my psyche.

In a similar manner, Elexis (Lex) Gillette’s competition eyewear has given him a new track creed. Lex is a world champion long jumper who competes in the T11 class of the Paralympics. Now, owing to the design savvy of Nike’s cross-functional NXT team, Lex takes to the air in cool superhero fashion!

Lex Gillette’s athletic accomplishments are truly remarkable. He is lauded as the best totally blind American long and triple jumper in the nation’s history. Although he does not have physical sight he is a man with vision. For more of his story visit here.

Lex’s athletic prowess garnered the attention of Nike who initiated a conversation with Lex around designing competition eyewear. The goal was not only to fulfill the Paralympic Class T11 requirement that all athletes wear opaque glasses or an eye mask, but to design eyewear that rounded out his uniform and highlighted Lex’s personal style.

Here’s what Lex had to say at the onset of the project.

“When I touch something and imagine it,” Gillette explains, “I can gauge it and create the picture in my mind. I can think, ‘I can rock this. It would look nice with my uniform.’”

This insight along with other design criteria fueled the NXT team’s development efforts.

Nike eyewear and case made for Lex Gillette. Braille on the case reads, “No need for sight when you have a vision,” and braille inside the eyewear reads, “No Fear.” – Source: Nike

Design criteria consisted of:

  1. Reduce distraction that Lex sometimes experiences due to fabric mask rubbing against eyelashes and inconsistent fit.
  2. Protect eyes from sand that sprays up when landing in the pit.
  3. Out with the ugly – “They just feel ugly. I want to look cool when I’m doing this.”
  4. Have an eyewear form factor and structure
  5. Incorporate various “tactile” qualities.

Armed with the design objectives and a 3D scan of Lex’s head the team had all they needed to craft several rapid prototypes. The designers flew out to Lex’s training facility in Chula Vista, CA to have Gillette run the new gear through the paces.

The design solution, a sweet hard shell sculptural form with minimal facial contact. A unique patina finish was applied to offer tactile feedback and echo both the bold style of the eyewear and Gillette himself.

Nike eyewear made for Lex Gillette
Box of Nike eyewear made for Lex Gillette

Without a doubt Elexis Gillette is sporting the coolest set of goggles in the world of track and field!

Author

Vince is Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Virginia Tech University. Vince has worked as Studio Engineer for consumer and medical product brands such as Whirlpool, Newell and ResMed Ltd. Australia. He's garnered 39+ patents and has designed everything from totes to toasters, and fiddles to furniture. He enjoys all things 3D and has carved out a niche as a Class-A Surfacing Guru. Active in both industry and academia, Vince serves as a Creative and Technical Skill Development Coach providing hands-on training and workshops pertaining to CAID/CAD. Vince relishes opportunities to keep learning and sharing what he's learned!