Storyboard: Kevin Bethune

Tenacity has a name

Despite my early inclinations to sketch as a child, the creative path was not one taken by many folks in the places where I grew up. I was born just outside NYC and raised in various cities across the Midwest. Coming up through school, engineering and business were perceived to be the most viable career paths by many of my peers. At the time, despite my creativity and curiosity, I wasn’t able to comprehend the possibility of making a career out of my right brain leanings.

Leaving college with a mechanical engineering degree, I entered the nuclear power generation industry working for Westinghouse Nuclear. Westinghouse taught me what it meant to execute great product and engender trust among teams who hold themselves to a high standard of performance.

All the while, I still found time to be creative. I drew as a hobby and even tried offering my artistic talents to local entrepreneurs. I posted my artwork in a local performance venue, applied my illustrations to tables in a restaurant and even executed a backdrop for a fashion show. All the while, my curiosity was ballooning and my sense of experimental adventure was deepening.

My career took a logical progression toward business school. While in an MBA program, I continued to experiment with my creative side, volunteering to execute artwork for any and all student clubs. When it came time to pick an employer, I narrowed my choices to those organizations that embodied a healthy mix of technology, strategy and creativity; three of the principal tenets I hold dear. It was at this point that I found myself at Nike, Inc.

At first, I was hired to help with the “numbers.” My itch for the product side of things led me to network to find out who was getting to tinker away at the cool innovation work. Nike is committed to investing in innovation and their people work across a wide cross section of disciplines. After some years in a corporate role, I was eventually invited to help with digital creation initiatives within the product teams. That opportunity introduced me to a new circle of creative friends with whom I felt comfortable sharing my extracurricular creative work.

Not long after this, I met D’Wayne Edwards, Footwear Design Director at the Jordan Brand. He happened to have a few briefs without a home (i.e., he needed an available designer) and encouraged me to try designing them under his mentorship. Working for D’Wayne was my second real job. We would meet in the wee hours of the morning to troubleshoot and hatch plans for navigating the best path forward. Later in the day, we’d conduct our day jobs, and I’d work on his assignments until the wee hours of the night. We repeated this daily cycle for the better part of a year.

Through the experience, a new understanding began to bubble up. It was a sense that I could live at the intersection of these converging disciplines. D’Wayne had a compulsion to impart knowledge, and I’m truly thankful for his mentorship. No surprise that he left Nike to found the world’s first footwear design academy, called PENSOLE based in Portland, Oregon.

One shoe project led to another, and I found myself meeting several ArtCenter alumni along the journey. I grew to see the value in how an ArtCenter education could really solidify my creative foundation, while building on the chapters of multidisciplinary experience. ArtCenter became my new “north star.” I saw it as the nexus for what I wanted to do moving forward. After five years at Nike, I decided to go for the dream, quit and begin studies in the Graduate Industrial Design program. My son Ezra was just born right around the time when I was making this critical life-decision. I reflected on what I would want him to do if he were in my shoes. The answer is simple: chase your dream.

Kevin Bethune
Vice President of Strategic Design, BCG Digital Ventures
MS 2012 Industrial Design

We would meet in the wee hours of the morning to troubleshoot and hatch plans for navigating the best path forward. Later in the day, we'd conduct our day jobs...

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