By  on October 18, 2019

Before accepting the 2019 National Designer Award winner for Product Design from Spike Lee, Nike Inc.’s vice president of creative concepts Tinker Hatfield spoke with WWD about the power of design, Nike’s view of the NBA-China controversy, cofounder Phil Knight’s involvement with the company and rumblings of c-suite succession plans. Like many guests at the 20th annual Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum gala, Hatfield expressed his own personal flair — wearing a hat, plaid tweed blazer and peach-colored shirt.

A company man of 38 years, Hatfield was Nike’s corporate architect for the first five years before switching to product design. His name may not resonate with Milllennials, but the various incarnations of Air Jordans and Air Max sneakers that he has designed over the years resonate with many. In the innovation group that Hatfield heads, 200 people may work on any one sneaker project and once in the factory prototype phase hundreds and hundreds of workers are involved. Despite speaking as more of a we-guy than an all-about-me-guy, the amicable executive is one reason Nike is now a $36.4 billion brand. Overseeing one of Nike’s more forward-thinking design teams, Hatfield is energized as ever by the undiscovered.

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