Hi Benjamin, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Ben Kaplan. I'm an Adopted Korean-American currently living in Portland, OR with my beautiful wife Erin and our dog, Pancho. 🐶
Can you tell us what you do as a Design Director at Nike for those who are unfamiliar?
I've been working at Nike for about 4 years now. My current role is Design Director in the Brand Experience Studio at Nike. We are responsible for creating the best virtual + physical experiences for Nike consumers all over the world. For example, our studio concepts and designs the immersive in-store experiences at all three of Nike's House of Innovation stores; NYC, Paris, and Shanghai. We believe that the best way for brands to connect with people is through experiences and that, in the future, more brands will start using Experience Design as an important lever within their wholistic marketing strategy.
How did you decide to pursue experience design?
This is a funny question for me because I never set out to become an Experience Designer. It's such a new field that I'm not even sure people see it as an option when they are going through school, etc.
My background has spanned the worlds of architecture, fine art, fabrication, and spatial design. This has given me a variety of hands-on experiences that I draw from in my current role; from milling wood in a furniture shop, to framing houses, to designing pop-ups at Lollapalooza, to designing retail store concepts for Urban Outfitters. I think all these random jobs have actually been extremely helpful in preparing me for my current role in Experience Design as it is so multi-disciplinary.
What programs & tools do you use everyday for work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?
Google Sketchup, Adobe Suite, Keynote to name a few.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
My advice is to follow your interests and passions in the moment. Don't worry about the "right path" or a linear career trajectory. That's not the way the world works anymore, especially in the creative fields. I think more and more people value your original thoughts and your ability to convey those thoughts in a seamless way vs. where you went to school or your "design pedigree".
What are some must-have resources (books, tools, podcasts, etc.) you would recommend for your industry?
The latest tool I'm obsessed with is Are.na. It's like a visual bookmarking tool for creatives and design researchers. I love the simple interface and ability to catalog a ton of ideas very quickly. I also find it a refreshing alternative to Pinterest in terms of image collecting.
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Tenacity, Dedication, and Curiosity
Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?
I love working with my team on projects from start to finish. It's very satisfying to take an idea from the very first napkin sketch all the way to final execution and design detailing.
I think the most difficult thing about my current job is navigating the complex internal structure of a big corporation. That is one of the trade-offs for creatives that choose to work in-house at a big brand vs. smaller agencies.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Buy as much Bitcoin as you can.
Best advice you've received/heard?
I don't know if anyone has ever said this to me personally, but I think treating people as human beings with respect and compassion can take you a long way in life.