Color & Materials Design


Tara Ellis

Color Designer (Basketball Apparel)

While many people don’t even realize Tara Ellis’s job exists, more and more companies are recognizing its importance. She is a color designer at Nike. Specifically, it’s up to her to determine the most effective colors for the iconic brand of basketball apparel.

“Whether it’s a shoe, garment or vehicle interior, color designers take a ‘blank canvas’ (designed by industrial designers, apparel designers or engineers) and use color to bring its visual personality to life,” said Ellis. “Color design is the full expression of the product in its completed form.”

Ellis collaborates with apparel designers and graphic designers on each of her projects at Nike. For example, if she were working on basketball shorts, the apparel designer would design the shorts in a blank sketch and make decisions about features like pockets, the zipper and panels sewn into the side of them. Next, a graphic designer takes the apparel designer’s sketch and decides where the trademark swoosh should live, or if there should be a print or pattern used. Then, Ellis determines the array of colors shoppers see in the product when they walk into a Nike store. One of her first projects was to select the colors used in the collection for signature athlete, Kyrie Irving. It was recently brought to market and featured on Nike’s home page and ad campaigns.

“It’s very much a collective effort bringing any product to life at Nike, but it was so exciting seeing one of the first projects I was a part of out in the world!” Ellis exclaimed. “Most importantly, Kyrie loved his stuff. He was rocking it all over Instagram.”