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Designing with Purpose

Isaiah Andrew applies the rigor and problem-solving discipline of engineering to the ways global brands engage with consumers.

Today, Isaiah Andrew ('07) stands right where he wants to be, mixing his passion for design with engineering's problem-solving ethos.

As a senior design director at Nike, Andrew helps propel Nike Virtual Studios, home to the company's virtual product platform. The position challenges Andrew intellectually and creatively to stay on the cutting edge of new design tools and technologies to expand and enliven Nike's presence in the ever-expanding virtual product and gaming world.

"It's work that excites me every day," says Andrew, who joined Nike Virtual Studios at its launch in January 2022.

Isaiah Andrew A Washington, D.C.-area native, Andrew was drawn to Northwestern for its rich blend of academic and cultural offerings as well as its proximity to his extended family on Chicago's South Side. He acknowledges that, although he initially felt intimidated by the University's scholarly talent, he gained a much-needed confidence boost from the Minorities in Engineering Opportunity Program (now called the Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars Program )— a summer program designed to acclimate incoming engineering students from diverse backgrounds to campus life.

"Forming a network, meeting professors, and learning to navigate campus before the academic year even began gave me a running start," Andrew says. "I saw I could thrive at Northwestern and find happiness here."

He did precisely that.

An electrical engineering and computer science major, Andrew savored learning new concepts and theories. He describes how a business-oriented engineering course taught by Professor William White opened his eyes to the broader applicability of his engineering studies. Through experiences at the University's Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center and its partnership with design firm IDEO, he embraced the possibilities of blending engineering's problem-solving discipline with emerging design and computer graphics tools.

"I connected with people and ideas well outside my comfort zone, which shaped my career aspirations," he says.

I knew how to get unstuck and solve problems, how to work with others, and I had an appetite for learning new things, all skills I developed at Northwestern. Isaiah Andrew

Andrew spent the first dozen years of his professional life in user experience (UX) design. At Acquity Group, he shaped human-computer interaction on projects for Target, OfficeMax, and McDonald's. At VSA Partners, a Chicago-based global creative agency, he helped form IBM Design Studio; at Apple, he advanced interactive retail, blending in-store and digital experiences to increase consumer engagement.

In 2020, he moved beyond UX design when he became head of product design at GOAT Group, an online retail platform for sneakers and apparel. Andrew spearheaded the redesign of the company's website and mobile app, helping to fuel its growth and brand presence over two years.

"I knew how to get unstuck and solve problems, how to work with others, and I had an appetite for learning new things, all skills I developed at Northwestern," Andrew says. "That helped me flourish in my career."

Though Andrew intended to stay at GOAT long term, Nike's enticing call proved too compelling. He jumped onto the Nike Virtual Studios team, immediately coming up with new ways to bring the brand's "amazing heritage of product, innovation, and storytelling to life in interesting ways," particularly for the gaming community.

"It's exciting to see the enthusiasm people have for items they own from Nike's virtual collection," Andrew says. "It pushes me to continue evolving and thinking about what else we can accomplish."