The mid 1990’s was a great time to be working at NIKE. Especially for those of us who were working in the NIKE Team Sports (NTS) division of NIKE Apparel. There was a big push to be on-field with marquee professional and college teams in order to add authenticity to NIKE’s licensed apparel business. Often times we worked hand in hand with footwear designers on complete head to toe looks that pushed the boundaries on performance during competition.
As an on field partner, we were in a unique position to not only outfit athletes head to toe with the swoosh, but we strengthened partnerships by designing new identities for a number of teams including the Florida State Seminoles, Georgetown Hoyas, Washington Huskies, Miami Hurricanes, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trailblazers, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Oregon Ducks.
I was hired as an NTS designer in 1995 under some of the most talented people in the industry. Creative Director, Todd Van Horne was and is the most influential person in my career who gave everyone room to roam and explore the boundaries. He led the redesign efforts of the teams listed above and also led the update of the Seattle Seahawks team look in 2012. One of my friends and fellow designers, Rodney Richardson went on to design the Houston Texans and New Orleans Pelicans team logos.
My first project after being hired was helping redesign the NFL Denver Broncos’ team identity. As one of three core design team members, we had a lot to prove and a lot as we were in new territory. Suffice to say, the resulting Denver Broncos branding not only changed the landscape for Pat Bowlen’s team, but for all of sports. According to an ESPN poll, the Denver Broncos identity was #2 on the Coolest team identities list behind the University of Michigan. It was personally gratifying personally as I grew up in Denver as a Broncos fan my whole life.
After we finished the Denver Broncos identity they went and won back to back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999. We were feeling pretty good about what we were capable of. That’s when NIKE CEO, Phil Knight approached us about updating the University of Oregon branding. His vision at that time was to raise Oregon’s status as a national title contender by attracting better players, better coaches and grow the Oregon fan base. Plans were under way to expand the size of Autzen stadium and add more seats.
RESPECT THE PAST, REPRESENT THE FUTURE
Nike was born on the track at the University of Oregon. It’s been well documented how Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman revolutionized the footwear industry when he poured rubber into his wife's waffle iron at home and essentially created a new kind of footwear technology. He and one of the runners he coached—Phil Knight— formed the company that would eventually be known as NIKE.
We had to respect the deep connection between university and global sportswear company. Our task was to capture that Bowerman magic again and revolutionize the college football player with the most advanced head to toe performance technology.
On the Broncos project I was an assistant designer doing a lot of the grunt work of converting sketches to Illustrator files. On the Oregon Ducks project I had the opportunity to step into the lead designer role and explore the boundaries of what the Oregon Ducks could be. Again, it was personally gratifying as I was a student in the University of Oregon’s Architecture program back in the late 1980’s.