What design and sport can learn from each other

Cari Sekendur, the founder of creative studio Butter, discusses how designers and athletes have more in common than they may think, and why brands across the sports ecosystem should take design more seriously

Designer Cari Sekendur grew up in Chicago during Michael Jordan’s prolific reign over basketball. As a young person, she had the chance to watch a legend of the game in the flesh, while trying her hand at all kinds of sports herself. Her interest in sports followed her into adulthood, and today she’s an ardent fan of women’s competitions in particular. With all of these experiences in mind, it was no surprise that her own design practice, Butter, would keep coming back to sports.

Sekendur focused on women and gender studies and international studies at university, before joining the startup world in marketing and operations. She eventually pursued her appetite for design and art direction, working in agencies on briefs for MTV and Nike, before launching Butter. Although she works for a range of clients at the studio, her emphasis is often on those from or adjacent to the world of sports.

Through sports, she learned skills that come into play in all corners of her life today, like how to work together and the benefits of healthy competition, she explains. In fact, sports have gone on to lay the blueprint for her practice today. “With our approach to design, I think of it as very similar to an athlete’s approach or an athlete’s mindset,” she says.