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PROFILE: Co-op Puts Student On Track for Designing Athletic Footwear

When it comes to his career, University of Cincinnati industrial design senior Omar Bailey, 22, has started off on the right foot. Thanks to his co-op work quarters, shoe designs Omar began at New Balance Inc. and K-Swiss are or soon will be on store shelves.

Date: 11/14/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot Though only 22, UC industrial design senior Omar Bailey already has a pair of professional achievements to his credit.

Omar with some of his shoe designs.

Thanks to UCs celebrated cooperative-education program which requires students in the top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning to alternate quarters spent in the classroom with paid, professional work Omar has already gained considerable experience working for New Balance Inc. in Boston, for K-Swiss in West Lake Village, Calif., for Adidas in Portland, Ore., and for Hewlett Packard in Houston.

In three of those co-ops, he produced early concepts of product designs that already have or will soon reach the market. These include football cleats that came out this past summer and are now worn by Auburns football team; performance basketball shoes due to come onto the market in December; and a smart phone that Hewlett Packard may produce.

The co-ops have combined the two things I love shoes and athletics, says Omar. I remember how great it was when I learned that Auburn actually called New Balance about the cleats Id designed. New Balance didnt even have to approach them. Now, Auburns football team wears those cleats.

A dedicated football and basketball player himself, Omar claims that he began his shoe-design career at about age 9. He laughs, Even in grade school, they called me the shoe guy. I was always crazy about shoes, sketching them and designing them. I just cant get enough! On my first co-op with New Balance, I was so excited that Id draw a sketch and then Id go right away to show someone.

These cleats that Omar designed for New Balance are now on the market and are worn by Auburn's football team.

Omar, whos from West Palm Beach, Fla., deliberately chose UC because of co-op and the options it provides for professional experience. He started his university career at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit but later switched to DAAP. They didnt have co-op in Detroit. Only a few students got internships so a group of us drove down to UC, and we were able to enter here, says Omar.

Omar plans one more co-op work quarter in winter 2006, and he's hoping to work in either England or Belgium. He  will then graduate in June 2006 -- as UC celebrates co-op's centennial. Most people don't know it, but co-op had its global founding at UC in 1906. When he graduates, Omar hopes to work for one of the firms hes co-opped for, seeking a posting in Asia. Its all part of his plan to some day open his own shoe-design firm.

Im gaining experience in the design world thanks to co-op, explains Omar. Im reading business books, and once I graduate, I want to work in Asia in order to make connections and learn about the manufacturing process up close. Ive already taken classes in Chinese, and Ive told my parents to figure that Ill be abroad for about five years after graduation.

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