photo manipulation by nacrowe
ABSTRACT: THE ART OF DESIGN is an ongoing NETFLIX series of documentaries that highlights exemplars associated with various fields of DESIGN. in this entry i am focused on the episode related to the revolutionary and widely-admired creative work of the modern AMERICAN shoe designer TINKER HATFIELD.
i think whats remarkable about the HATFIELD is the fact that these coveted objects he's manifested throughout the years via his collaborations with NIKE and various athletes are all in a sense engineering solutions to specific problems. by definition his designs are pragmatic in approach. it makes sense when you take out of the conversation how much influence the AIR JORDAN and AIR MAX lines have had on urban fashion and popular AMERICAN culture through the preceding decades.
but again, as originally conceived, form followed function. not the other way around. in terms of narrative, this episode does such by using a current technical objective at the time of filming (an adaptive-lacing technology called E.A.R.L. created during development for the AIR MAG) to contextualize his design process before going back and discussing solutions to past problems (i.e. the parameters that led to the AIR TRAINER 1, AIR TECH CHALLENGE 2, AIR JORDAN 3 and AIR JORDAN 20). the lacing system came out of the reality that by the time basketball players become professional, their feet have been mangled and deformed due to over tightening their laces over many years. he thought that if there was a shoe that could loosen and tighten during inactive parts of a game (free throw, sitting on the bench, etc), that such would be of long-term benefit to the athletes themselves.
HATFIELD also displays the curiosity and open-mindedness to take inspiration from unconventional sources to incorporate into his designs. my guess is that this is probably due to his architectural and engineering background where multiple solutions can satiate specific site parameters. this ability doesnt break from function informing form, if anything it spurs it. examples of this range from the POMPIDOU CENTER in PARIS inspiring him to make NIKE's pressurized air units visible to FIGHTER JETS and PANTHERS informing design choices for various AIR JORDAN models (5 and 13, respectively). there is a definite storytelling aspect to his work which carries over with the NIKE range write large, as such engages the consumer base in a way that transcends mere performance and technical capabilities of the product. MICHAEL JORDAN is obviously the cornerstone example, but HATFIELD also mentions how meeting then-TENNIS upstart ANDRE AGASSI informed his conception of him as being ANTI-COUNTRY CLUB and created products that bolstered that image entirely. in this sense, the athlete and his personality helped inform the design of his products, which were often neon-colored and loud, which was absolutely anathema to the crusty, conservative white traditionally worn on court.
the work of HATFIELD is renowned for its ability to address the needs of his clients while also presenting big, disruptive ideas that have largely defined the market several times over.
i appreciate him if only because the black/cement AIR JORDAN 3s are the most gorgeous basketball shoe ever. period.