Nike, Tom Sachs and the Good Flock’s Marco Murillo team up for Mars shoe and bag designs

Mars Yard 2.0-inspired bag by Marco Murillo and Nike

Creative collaboration can be a many layered process when it comes to design. When you add three strong points of view to that process, plus a tight deadline, you might not know what you’re going to get in the end.

But for Marco Murillo, founder and product design director at Portland's The Good Flock, the product arm of Red & Co., working with Nike and artist Tom Sachs on a bag to go along with the groundbreaking Mars Yard 2.0 shoe was a welcome challenge and a “dream project”.

Murillo, a former Nike employee who started The Good Flock to produce well-designed, functional products made by hand, was approached by his former employer and Sachs to design a product for influencers in support of the launch of the Mars Yard 2.0 sneaker during the Tom Sachs/NikeCraft Space Camp experiential event. The event – described as part film screening and part obstacle course – takes place on New York’s Governor’s Island starting today (June 8).

The Mars Yard 2.0 project

Sculptor and modern media designer Sachs originally worked with Nike in 2009 as a contributor to the Stages exhibition, benefiting cancer research. In 2012, Sachs and Nike partnered to release the NikeCraft Mars Yard, a shoe inspired by Sachs’ interactions with NASA’s highly specialized scientists, and designed as high-performance equipment for the building of his Space Program 2.0: Mars exhibition, according to Nike. Now, the NikeCraft Mars Yard shoe is relaunching in 2.0 form with a material update informed by Sachs’ long-term trial of the original to improve its durability.

The new shoe is the result of continuous adjustments, a common working technique in Sachs’ work. The materials used in the shoe are largely employed in their natural state, with no dyes and exposed workings.

A functional bag to accompany the shoe

Murillo, knowing the story behind the shoe, had just 90 days to design, prototype and produce an innovative bag informed by the work of Sachs, yet still be distinctly Nike.

“Compared to a typical 18 to 24 month process, three months was no time,” said Murillo. “But what we lacked in time we were able to bridge with a clear vision, organization and experience. Having a clear brief from Tom and Nike was the first critical step: Design a waist pack that can convert into a tote that can live alongside the footwear and apparel in the collection.”

He added that the bag needed to delicately balance both Sachs’ art and Nike’s hyper-designed products, so he and his team were in constant contact with Sachs and Nike to ensure that their feedback and ideas were heard and integrated.

The eight-person team put in hundreds of hours on the project, planning the work, building prototypes and refining the design. Specifically, they looked to NASA astronauts and lightweight mountaineering for inspiration.

“As much as I love beautiful sketches I tend to push our team to spend time building prototypes and evolving the design through iteration. We typically work with the specific materials we are considering when building prototypes,” said Murillo.

One of the materials that The Good Flock had to work with was Dyneema, which is super lightweight and “stronger than steel” according to Murillo, making it difficult to work with for bag design.

“Because we often manufacture what we design, this (prototyping) process helps us understand the relationships between exotic materials, assembly, sequencing and we discover problems early. For this particular project we designed 10 prototypes before landing on the final design. With each iteration we would make one small breakthrough and refine the design just a bit more,” said Murillo.

With all its challenges, Murillo said it was a dream project to work on, and he feels he and his team were integral in the process and the results.

“Having worked at Nike for a decade I had a pretty good idea of what they needed. Keeping a constant dialogue with Tom helped us understand his exacting needs. We were the epoxy in the equation. Meticulous, borderline OCD glue that welds the product needs to the artist's desires and the brand's DNA.”

The resulting bag is fully convertible and can be worn as a waist pack, backpack or tote bag. Because of its makeup, it is strong and durable, yet lightweight. After the Space Camp experience, the bag will be made for the retail market.

“Tom and the folks at Nike fell in love with the bag and the plan is to make it available in the Nikecraft collection,” concluded Murillo.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle