Nike Joyride: Bead Cloud

Kate Lynham

Nike Joyride: Bead Cloud

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‘The kinetic animation is driven by the same principles as the shoes themselves. It should feel relaxing, rhythmical and reinvigorating to watch.’

Kate Lynham, Creative Director, UNIT9

The background

Nike wanted to introduce runners to its newest running shoe, the Nike Joyride sneaker. So we built an installation that demonstrated the benefits of the unique shoe—namely, that it’s packed with a thousand beads—and how it can improve performance.

The execution

We built the Joyride bead cloud, an installation in a coveted spot in the Dubai Mall Nike store on Fashion Avenue that explained how the beads help improve recovery running. While the technology behind the beads is impressive, we didn’t want to get too caught up in the details of how it works. Instead, we focused on creating a beautiful, artistic sculpture that brought out the playfulness of the sneakers and conveyed the essence of what it’s like to go running in them: smooth, effortless, and freeing.


‘Each day the motors that move the beads rotate around half a billion times.’

Kate Lynham, Creative Director, UNIT9

The installation, which was 4m long and over 3m high, was an extraordinarily large undertaking. The CNC-ing of the shoe took over a week in machine time alone, and that didn’t include finishing. We used 148 servo motors to power the beads, which moved at 25cm per second. Building the animations to project onto the beads was a complex process, and we kept tweaking and improving them throughout the duration of the project to ensure they looked exactly right. There were many “what ifs” and “therefores” to write into the code, and the team worked hard to determine every single possible scenario.

Our biggest challenge was ensuring that the interaction worked by triggering the
sensors and lights without disrupting the animation, but still making it feel like a
responsive experience. We also faced an unexpected and unusual battle: one with air conditioning, as even the slightest breeze could make the beads sway. We added weights to them to help keep them still.

The results

It was exciting to work on a project that lived in such a high-profile location. The Dubai Mall is the second-largest mall in the world and attracts tens of thousands of visitors a day, driving millions of impressions throughout the campaign.

Even if shoppers only saw the eye-catching installation in passing, they still understood that the Nike Joyride sneakers contain a thousand beads that work hard so you don’t have to.