På torsdag är det dags för den årliga Air Max-dagen, och då släpper även Nike sin nya Air Max-modell, nämligen Zero. Eftersom vi är mer taggade än en apa i en bananaffär beslutade vi oss för att ta ett snack med grabbarna som ligger bakom själva skon, nämligen två designers vid namn Tinker Hatfield och Graeme McMillan.
Först ut är Tinker Hatfield, och imorgon kan ni läsa vad Graemes hade att säga, missa inte!
There was no brief or research, just a single revelation. I thought why couldn’t we design an exciting new running shoe that reveals to the world what Nike Air really is.
I remember thinking about how we were building these bigger and bigger Air-Sole units, and thinking that people needed to see them and understand them. They needed to be exposed to this new technology, and not only just to the technology, but also to an entire package that presents it the right way—one that could be worn on a run.
So the very first drawings were all about showing these Air-Sole units. Some of them were just drawings of an Air-Sole unit in a heel that you can see. Other drawings would show them in the forefoot and in the midfoot.
It wasn’t just about the Air-Sole unit. It was about the entire design. We were creating a different kind of shoe that just feels different, feels better and has a unique visual character. When you put it all together, that’s when people get excited and you may have a better shot at changing the landscape.
Often when people talk about the Air Max 1, they reference the Centre Georges Pompidou as the location where you had your visible air epiphany. Did that inspire the Air Max 1 as we know it today? Or was that moment something that preceded the Air Max Zero?
My recollection is that I had traveled to Paris, and as an architect, was quite aware of new and interesting architecture around the world. I specifically went to Paris to see the city, but also to visit the Pompidou Center. It was controversial, and there were a lot of people around the world who thought it was just too different.
The Pompidou is a building turned inside out, with a glass skin underneath. Even some of what would normally be on the inside of the skin was on the outside. Everything is exposed, from heating and cooling ducts to escalators and elevators. You could just see everything.
As a designer, you look for examples of design where people take risks and try something different. I remember that being stuck in my head. Coming back to Oregon, I had meetings with the technicians who were working on these larger Air-Sole units and relayed my thoughts. Essentially, here is this building that’s like no other building and here is this technology. Maybe we could also take our technology and expose it and create a shoe that’s like no other.
So that’s how it started. I did see the building before I did the shoe, so it is true that there was some inspiration from that. But give Nike technology its due. If our technicians hadn’t been working on a bigger Air-Sole unit that was getting larger and closer to the edge of the midsole, we probably wouldn’t have wanted to cut the hole because it would have been like a cave. So it was a combination of the Pompidou Center and the fact that we were making bigger Air-Sole units.
What were you thinking about when you sketched your first shoe with visible Nike Air?
Aside from that visible air idea, I thought about sculpting the midsole to be more minimalist, rising up where it needed to rise up for support and dropping down where it wasn’t needed.
I also spent some time sketching the upper, which was meant to be a good-fitting upper with a traditional saddle. This is the centerpiece that rises up in the midfoot and has the Swoosh on it. The saddle is a way to make a good-fitting shoe, because you can take that one piece and form it to the shape of a foot. So the shoe employed what you would call best practices today.
Yet what was more unique in this drawing was the fact that there was no tip, which you could probably say was borrowed from the Sock Racer. The Sock Racer didn’t have a tip. It was a stretchy shoe, but the product was not meant to be a stretchy shoe. I was simply trying to get rid of stuff we didn’t need. While it has no tip or tongue, it does have a lateral forefoot reinforcement overlay. You need to make sure that the shoe doesn’t fall apart around your little toe and the side of your foot, especially if you are running around a track or running through the woods and you make a little bit of a move. Something we call lateral stability.
Another really different aspect of the design was the inclusion of an external heel strap with no heel counter. It was pre-Huarache, pre-sandal, if you will. It was kind of like how you would design a sandal, you know, where a sandal would wrap around your heel and have the ability to cinch up over the top of your heel bone. I just thought that was a nice, minimalist approach.
In many ways, it was a shoe ahead of its time—not just in regards to its appearance, but also in terms of the construction it required. Very practically, the technology and materials available to us at the time wasn’t advanced enough to execute the original vision.
Your original design has now been reinterpreted into the Air Max Zero, which releases in March. What are your impressions of it?
I love it. It features modern materials and construction, and I think that’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, when you dig up something from the past and you just stick strictly to that, you’re tying one arm behind your back because it’s not the past anymore. That was then. This is now. If you had handed me the project, I would have chose same new materials similar to what the team did today.
I also think it’s cool that you can be inspired by something, but you don’t have to copy it. In fact, I design architecture all the time. I do homes for people. I do big buildings. I may be inspired by an old building but I always bring a new material or new spin into my designs. That’s in part what good designers do. Inspiration can come from many places. You can’t be afraid to learn from a pre-existing design and make it your own.