Kicking Off: How Four CCS Alumni Went from Sponsored Project to Creating a Football Design Powerhouse

December 3, 2021
Photo of a black football helemt

The 2017 Xenith-sponsored CCS Design Studio is what started it all. The course was led by design director and alumnus Matthew McPhail, who points out that the studio “really sparked what is now a full design team that is comprised almost entirely of people from that original studio…” Now, every member of Xenith’s design studio is Team CCS. This is just one example of how experiential learning can lead to successful fulfilling career outcomes

Founded in Boston in 2006 by former Harvard quarterback Vin Ferrara, the football helmet, gear, and apparel brand, Xenith, puts the safety, performance and comfort of athletes first — from youth to pros — during every step of the design and engineering process. Now, having based its entire design and manufacturing operation in Detroit, Xenith, which introduced its first helmet in 2009, has debuted Xenith Shadow — a five-star rated helmet featuring an industry-first novel polymer-shell and adaptive fit technology within a patented shock matrix that moves independently of the shell.

And every member of the design studio is Team CCS.

Lead product designer Connor Riegle (‘17, Product Design) says that Xenith Shadow was his first big project at Xenith, along with product designers Bailey Boyd and Andrew Lark (both ‘17, Product Design), and that the design process was so comfortable it felt as if “we had brought a little bit of CCS here. We’re basically a solid CCS design team. It really feels like a family both from a Xenith perspective and a CCS perspective, so we have this shared history. We know each other’s paths, and we’re on that journey together.”

According to the three, Director of Product Design, Matthew McPhail — also a CCS alum (‘09, Product Design) — gave them free reign on the Xenith Shadow project to bounce ideas off each other and come up with something game changing.

“It was fun to see a little bit of competitive edge through sketching and research,” says Lark, “all of us just trying to work together to find that novel solution.”

Bailey Boyd contributed the helmet’s sleek silhouette.

“If you look at Xenith’s helmets in the past, you know we’ve had a very simple silhouette,” he explains. “That was something that I really wanted to influence on the helmet: design something that looks fast and would really catch people’s eye from a distance while it’s out on the field.”

More than friends and former college classmates, Boyd, Lark and Riegle have forged something utterly unique within a brand known for uniqueness.

The Xenith Shadow helmet is currently on the field being used by thousands of athletes from the NFL and college ball to youth and high school teams. And an undeniable element of the trio’s success at Xenith is the bond they created at CCS.

Xenith completed its third sponsored studio with CCS in spring 2019, this time in conjunction with the Product Design and Advertising Design departments. The company has grown significantly in parallel with what is clearly a winning partnership. “CCS was an essential partner for us as we considered various ways to build our own first internal design team. We were so inspired by the work from our earliest sponsored studio engagements that we chose to hire students directly from those partnerships, who are still here working on the next generation of products. We look forward to our future design challenges here at XENITH, and how we can partner with CCS’s deep design talent pool to supercharge our outputs on real-world design projects.”said McPhail. 

Are you or your company looking for ways to partner with CCS’s students, faculty and staff? There are many ways to engage with CCS including creative talent recruitment, on-campus industry events, experiential learning partnerships, sponsored projects in the classroom, lectures, critiques and much more. Join CCS on Handshake to start connecting with students, post internships and jobs, and view portfolios. Once you register, please choose College for Creative Studies (CCS) on the drop down.