An Interview with the Designers of the Nike Air Maxim 1

By - August 18th, 2009

An Interview with the Designers of the Nike Air Maxim 1


Pronunciation: ËŒe-vÉ™-ˈlü-shÉ™n, ˌē-vÉ™-
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin evolution-, evolutio unrolling, from evolvere a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations; also : the process described by this theory.

Certainly the term above is a familiar one, then there is a more recent terminology coined by Nike, “re-evolution”, a hybrid process where new modifications are conjoined with pre-existing elements instead of replacing them.  An ideal example of this is the new Air Maxim 1.

The process didn’t just start last year, rather 22 years ago in 1987 when designer Tinker Hatfield created the Air Max 1.  Hired originally as the Corporate Architect for Nike in 1981, Hatfield was “promoted” to the coveted footwear designer position after winning a 24-hour

contest. Either intentionally or unintentionally, Hatfield wanted to debunk the status quo of footwear design at the time. Soon he found the perfect medium for that in Air Max 1.

During its course, by tapping into his architectural foundation, Hatfield found a muse in Centre Pompidou,an public institution for the arts in Paris.  Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winners Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the ultramodern building literally turned itself inside out, with exposed piping, ducts, steel skeletal framework, and more.  Though its now a integral part of Nike brand identity, the exposed Nike Air Unit on the original Air Max 1 was not without controversy at the time of its launch.  Some thought the design was pretentious and gimmicky, while others questioned the endurance of the Air Unit.  The doubts have long since dissipated, Hatfield’s Air Max 1 not only became one of the most recognizable design but a cornerstone in Nike’s Air Pack series. Fast-forward to now, 20+ years later, Nike decided it was time to revamp the classic through its “re-evolution” process, an uneasy task considering the history and the influence Air Max 1 has.  The difficult, and in some ways, unenviable, job was allocated to 2 seasoned designers of the Nike Sportswear team headed by Jesse Leyva – Ann-Marie Paz & Anthony Hope.

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