Keith Crawford and David Odusanya, who collectively spent 37 years at Nike, most recently as executive creative directors before departing in July 2017, are coming together again through a new joint venture: their own creative shop, CO-Lab.
The agency will be headquartered in Portland, Ore., and will focus on design strategy for companies across branding, product development and consumer experience. The name CO-Lab.—the period at the end is part of the name—is a nod to both founders and their collaborative partnership.
“Design is all about big ideas and how that connects with the consumer,” Odusanya said as he and Crawford chatted over the phone with Adweek from atop unpacked boxes in their new office. “Ideas are everything.” Data and technology are just “there to support” those ideas, he said.
In other words, content is still king. That philosophy stems from the duo’s time with Nike (which has made headlines recently for its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick).
Crawford said Nike “is such a great company” that keeps design and creativity at the core of everything it does.
While they will uphold that philosophy at CO-Lab., Crawford and Odusanya said they are excited to work with a variety of businesses across a variety of industries.
Odusanya said for now, the creative leaders and partners plan to maintain a small footprint, employing only a handful of people in management and business-development roles. They envision CO-Lab. as a project-focused shop for brands looking to disrupt their respective categories.
CO-Lab. will foster relationships with freelance creatives in and outside Portland to bring onto projects as they see fit, “rather than hire a big staff to do everything under the sun,” Crawford said, although he expects the agency to “grow and shrink over time depending on the work we have coming in the door.”
Crawford and Odusanya said they have inked some deals with clients already but declined to identify them yet. Crawford did mention they are in discussions with brands in the sports category.
Still, Odusanya said, variety in the work they take on is important to both of them.
Odusanya spent 20 years at Nike in various executive creative director roles. He most recently was vice president of design in the company’s global football division. According to CO-Lab., he was particularly instrumental in Nike’s recent FIFA World Cup efforts. Before Nike, Odusanya was a senior designer at Reebok.
For 17 years, Crawford served in several executive creative director and senior design roles in Nike’s Jordan, Basketball, Women’s and Team Sports divisions. Most recently he was vice president of design and creative director for the Jordan brand.
Before Nike, Crawford did a three-year stint as design director of Anomaly London, working across accounts including Converse, Sony, Skype and Diesel.