Following the unveiling of Neymar Jr.'s brand new boot - Nike Hypervenom II, we sat down with the lead designers behind the innovative football boot to find out more.

With yesterday's big unveiling of Neymar Jr.'s new signature boot, Nike Hypervenom II, we attended the launch event for the groundbreaking football boot at Barcelona's iconic Camp Nou stadium, home ground for the Brazilian striker and his club FC Barcelona. There to launch the boot was Max Blau - VP Nike Football Footwear, Nathan VanHook - Senior Footwear Design Director for Nike Football, and Phil Woodman, Nike Football Footwear Designer. We had the chance to sit down with designers Nathan VanHook and Phil Woodman to find out the inspiration and process behind Hypervenom II.

Nathan VanHook, Senior Footwear Design Director for Nike Football

How does the design process work for a brand new product like this?

I think for football in particular, the amount of things you have to solve - like most footwear you just have to secure the foot and provide cushioning - but with football you need to have good traction for all surfaces; they need to have amazing touch and a lot of players are so detailed in the touch they want. It’s a lot of going back and forth with different prototypes to see what we can tweak and update.

How did creating the NikeSkin material come about?

The skin actually came from the Hypervenom I. The idea was to take the skin and put it over mesh for this amazing fit and feel. The All Conditions Control (ACC) skin is about having amazing control in any condition, so whether the pitch is wet or dry it has the same exact touch.

In terms of the design process, when do you reach the point when you know the boot is finished?

I think the key is going back and forth with the players. When we set out these goals at the beginning we work with the players and once we tick off these goals and once it looks like a super unified product and every detail has worked out - then we know we’ve had a success.

What are other influences that you look to in the design process? You've mentioned nature for style, but are there any other fields?

As a team we are inspired a lot by modern architecture - really futuristic things and trying to embody those and put a twist on it.

You were previously on the Nike Sportswear design team. How have you taken what you've learned at Nike Sportswear to Nike Football?

It was a great experience working at Nike Sportswear because you really had to not only create product that people lust over, but it's also super comfortable for day-to-day use. So we tried to do the same with football where we want something that is super comfortable on pitch and has zero distractions, but you also have this amazing emotion because of how the boot actually looks.

I’ve heard that every Friday the design team goes out and plays a football match as a group?

Yeah, some people play a lot more often but as a design team we try to play for about two hours every Friday, just testing the different products.

So you’ve actually tested the boot yourself - what is your favorite feature?

I love the Flywire, how it locks your foot down. Especially how it's angled, it really creates a cool look.

There has been a lot of progress on the women's side of things. What is happening there?

Right now we're focused on great sizing and fit for the women's players as well, because the needs they have are the very same as for men in terms of movement and how they perform, but we also want to create a new aesthetic for female players.

How do you feel with Nike Football really coming into its own? Do you have any memories of the brand in the football world?

I guess it was the ’94 World Cup in the U.S. and Nike had an amazing stage where so many Brazilian players were wearing the boots. To see where we are now as market leaders in that 20-year stretch - it’s like, okay, so what are the next 20 years going to see?

Max Blau, VP Nike Football Footwear, talked about the advantage of being able to write your own script with Nike Football. What are the advantages of being able to create your own history and your own future with the brand?

That’s the key - it’s funny to say but we are actually working on creating the future. This has been worked on since 2012/2013. We honor the past but we are not worried about it. We are always moving forward and trying to do new things. We are pushed by our team, but also by the entire company and seeing what they are doing.

Phil Woodman, Nike Football Footwear Designer

How does the design process start for you?

Every design process starts with the insights, so working with a huge team within a campus we delve into “Who is this athlete?" and ”What are their needs?,” and then you can begin to go into more details and analyze their performance needs. Once you gain these insights, you can then start to problem solve it. Design is all about problem solving, but also about making a product that people love and really resonate with.

You used some very interesting drills and techniques in the early stages - for example having Neymar Jr. move into various stages of his attack game and then spray painting his foot in this position to see where his foot moves and flexes. How did these techniques come about?

The Nike sports research lab data is pretty standard for Nike and we do it across all sports. It’s a well-tuned system that works for every product. The spray painting sock idea was new for us - it was just trying to come up with new ideas of how to gain the insights and true data back from the players.

The process of collecting data from the player, creating the design, making the prototype, and circling that over and over until you arrive at the final product - how does that work?

Every process lasts for about two to four years. You have to stay dedicated and you have to obsess over every issue of the shoes. So starting from insights - you’re just ticking off against the problems, creating solutions and constantly evolving. You go back and forth with the player, get their feedback, and inject the new into it.

How often are key athletes such as Neymar Jr. involved in this process? Just in the initial stages of gaining insight, or throughout the entire design process?

Every key stage, maybe every two or three months. We work with more accessible athletes throughout the whole process but we constantly get him involved.

How do you know when the boot is finished and you've arrived at the end point?

When you take it back to the player and you’ve ticked off everything they need in that boot. Not just performance needs but when you present it to them, that expression on their face that they just don’t want to give it back.

How far along into the process does the style aspect come in?

We’re constantly thinking about style. So you start integrating elements of this a few months into the process. Performance goes hand-in-hand with style - you can’t just slap a graphic design on it at the end. It wouldn’t work.

How has the NikeSkin developed and come into play in the Hypervenom II boot?

We’ve been developing it for many years now - it’s just constantly developing. We’re using new polymers to allow it to be softer and thinner and closer to the foot to increase that touch on the ball for the player.

Nature has influenced the style but in terms of fit, touch and traction, what other outside influences did you look to?

I came from a transport design school so this has been an inspiration. People ask how does footwear relate to cars but I think they’re both going after the same thing - you’re problem solving but you’re also having to create a product that people desire.

You’ve been at Nike Football for a while now. Compared to the other boots you’ve work on, how does the Hypervenom II compare?

It’s definitely exciting just because of the attitude of it. As soon as I found out I was working on the Hypervenom II after the Hypervenom I, and seeing the energy and aggressiveness of it - as a designer you just go wild because everything that is in your head you can just put onto the boot. It’s like a real expression of that player.

The Hypervenom Phantom Transform features a heat-sensitive material that allows it to change color during a match. How did this come about?

The Hypervenom Phantom Transform was launched as a transformation from the Hypervenom I to the Hypervenom II, so it’s kind of that "deceptive by nature" theme that we talk about in the Hypervenom II. It looks like a regular black boot but as you go through the game and it heats up and becomes more active, it really exposes the beast within.

You’ve had quite a history with football, growing up and playing. How is it seeing Nike as a leader in the market right now?

I played at a really young age where everyone played in a black boot - no one really thought about the footwear they were wearing. Then we went through the Mercurial ’98 and Magista Obra - that’s when we really revolutionized football through Nike - not only through color and material, but by creating the lightest boot ever made. Nike is always about innovation, and then fusing that with style. Constantly making things better through insights we get from players and talking to players and professionals, and injecting that back into footwear.

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