by Halle Johnson, Student Public Relations Writer
Nicholas Mahek never thought his love for shoes would lead to a dream role, but after pursuing a degree in industrial and innovative design at Cedarville University, he found a career that combines his passion for sketching, teamwork, shoes … and country music.
Following a four-month design internship at Crocs postgraduation in 2021, Mahek was hired by the shoe company as a full-time associate designer in the concepts and personalization department. Although only employed at the company for a short time, Mahek was asked to be the primary designer on a collaboration project with country music artist Luke Combs.
“I grew up on his music and was a huge fan, so it was an exciting project to be thrown into,” said Mahek. “Collaboration really requires you to understand what the client wants, so I had to adapt my design to Luke’s vision. The idea was really to focus on fishing and to get the ‘good-ole-boy’ kind of attitude into a shoe.”
The vision of the project was one Mahek was able to understand.
“I grew up bass fishing, so when I was told the design was centered around fishing it felt like a full-circle moment,” said Mahek. “I was able to incorporate my love of the outdoors with my love of shoes and design while working for a musician I am a huge fan of!”
For Mahek, collaboration is key to his design process.
“The International Center for Creativity (ICC) really prepared me to communicate well within teams and with clients,” said Mahek. “I have loved working at Crocs because of how central teamwork is to its process. I was on a solid team of designers and co-workers who pushed me to ask questions, adapt, and provide a strong end product.”
Mahek was first introduced to the innovative and industrial design major during a visit to the university’s career services office while visiting Cedarville as a high school student. Jeff Reep, director of career services, set up a visit for Mahek at the ICC.
“I grew up sketching and working with my hands. I am very collaborative, and I love solving problems with other people,” said Mahek. “Entering the ICC and watching how involved professors were, how interactive and hands on the projects were, showed me possibilities for my skills.”
The ICC prepares students through research-based design, emphasizing both the soft skills of innovative thinking and effective communication with traditional design skills.
“A lot of focus at the ICC was on understanding the consumer needs,” said Mahek. “Designs are better when they are made with the consumer in mind. I take the time to ground myself in the consumer, every aspect of their needs and interests, so that even before I start designing, I have a vision of what the product needs to be.”
For Mahek, this mindset not only allowed for effective collaboration, but a wildly successful launch. The Luke Combs X Crocs 2022 collaboration was promoted by Combs on his Instagram and sold out the entire 50,000 limited edition shoes in a little over a week.
“The ICC really prepared me for this job by giving me a toolbelt of skills,” said Mahek. “Graduating with the innovative and industrial design major makes you a jack-of-all-trades; you have experience in interior design, architectural design, transportation and product design. The training I received there has been applicable to my job postgraduation.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,082 undergraduate, graduate and high school dual-enrolled students in more than 175 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including the Bachelor of Arts in industrial and innovative design, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement rankings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.