The soccer ball, or football to those outside the US, holds significance to every person who has ever played the sport. Different variations (human heads, animal skulls, inflated pig and cow bladders) have been used throughout time and among various cultures, but its purpose remains intact—to reach the goal.
Todd Smith works as a senior designer for Nike’s soccer equipment. He is the lead designer for almost all of Nike’s soccer balls, many of the goalie gloves and some of the shin guards. Sales of the company’s soccer balls comprise roughly 60 percent of the division’s primary products.
“I’m lucky in that our consumers are passionate about the sport and the products I work on,” said Smith. “A soccer ball is not just a piece of equipment to them. Middle-aged men, way beyond their prime, see a new Nike ball and become boys again. Kids who play barefoot because they can’t afford shoes kick around a Nike ball and get to be Ronaldinho for a moment. I’m proud that what I do makes people happy. I know most of that is because they really love soccer, but I hope I have a little bit to do with it.
“It is also amazing to see how much soccer influences peoples’ lives. I think that, outside of religion, soccer might be the largest cultural force in the world. And over the last 10 years, Nike has made a tremendous impact on the look and feel of the sport.”
Smith joined the Nike family in 2000 after a series of interviews with contacts representing different groups within the company. An avid soccer player his entire life, he understands the needs of his target consumers. In 2006, he designed the Total 90 Aerow II, which has been the primary on-pitch ball since then for most of the professional leagues in Europe and around the world.
“It’s the first ball that I totally owned from start to finish,” Smith said. “I worked on other balls before, but I consider this one my baby. It’s a thrill to turn on matches from all over the world and see my ball on television… I'm currently working on new designs
for Nike's sponsored professional leagues and tournaments around the world.”
The Omni ball, one of Smith’s latest designs, is being played with in the English Premiership, the Spanish Primera Division and the Italian Serie A.
Smith developed his strong work ethic as a student in the graphic design program at CCS. Although the designer earned good grades throughout high school, he was never pushed to fully exert himself. Instructors like Susan Laporte changed that.
“CCS made me work, and I learned that it didn’t really bother me,” said Smith. “To this day, when my back is up against the wall, I know I can put in the effort and produce results. That gives me a lot of confidence.”
- Graduation Year: 2000
- Major: Graphic Design
- Employer: Nike, Inc.
- Title: Graphic Designer
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