2008 Ellis F. Lawrence Medal Honors Tinker Hatfield
Tinker Hatfield credits his design education for his success. “Architecture is, by nature, pretty broad. It’s both technical and creative, and rich in cultural education.” He received his bachelor of architecture degree from the UO in 1977 after completing his studies in fall term 1976. The noted designer of Nike’s most popular and successful athletic shoes, including the now legendary Air Jordan XX3, Hatfield, vice president for innovation design and special projects, is recognized worldwide for innovative design. In 1998, Fortune magazine named Hatfield one of the 100 Most Influential Designers of the century.
Hatfield studied architecture at the University of Oregon while being coached by the legendary Bill Bowerman, cofounder of Nike. He held the UO record in the pole vault and placed sixth in the 1976 Olympic Trials. Due to complications from an injury he incurred during his second year at UO, he was forced to retire from his athletic career after the Trials. Hatfield practiced architecture in Eugene until 1981 when he joined up with Nike to design offices, apparel showrooms, and Nike retail outlets.
His product design career was launched in 1985 and Hatfield became creative director of Nike product design in 1989. In addition to helping design the first-of-its-kind cross-training shoe, the Air Trainer, Hatfield has earned global recognition for imagination and innovation in his collaborations with Michael Jordan for the Air Jordan line. Hatfield’s other credits include Air Max running shoes, the Air Huarache series, Andre Agassi footwear and apparel, the Air Mowabb, and Michael Johnson’s gold track spikes.
In addition to working with Michael Jordan each year, Hatfield has worked with top performers in sports, music, and film. He works with champion athletes including Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James. He previously worked with Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Gabrielle Reece, and Picabo Street. Tinker has collaborated on product design with a wide range of celebrities outside the world of sport as well. Some of these include Bill McDonough, Frank Marshall, Spike Lee, Michael J. Fox, Chi McBride, Kanye West, Futura, and Sheryl Crow. He also spends time mentoring young Nike designers and helping to build the Nike of the future. His current list of responsibilities includes developing long-term strategy for design advancement at Nike and The Jordan brand. He is also working on the redevelopment of Nike Global retail stores and story telling and continues with some top secret design projects for college football uniforms and new athletic footwear ideas.
Hatfield spearheaded the greening of the newest Air Jordan XX3 shoe. “Our goal was to make the Air Jordan XX3 the best basketball shoe ever, both in performance and sustainability. The handcraftmanship and innovation built into this shoe is simply unmatched,” says Hatfield. The company designed and manufactured it to reduce waste, use more environmentally friendly materials, and eliminate solvant-based glues.
Hatfield has written for the Harvard Business Review in addition to appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune magazine and many other publications. In 1993, Hatfield won an International Design Award for the Air Huarache. In 1993 and 1996, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the sports business by Sportstyle magazine. Some of Hatfield’s design work for the Air Jordan is included in the Smithsonian Institution.
A native Oregonian, Hatfield attended Central Linn High School where he earned distinction as an accomplished basketball player, an All-American track-and-field star in hurdles and vaulting, and an All State running back. In 1970, Hatfield was named top individual high school athlete in the state of Oregon.