Interview with Nathan Van Hook, Nike footwear designer

The young footwear designer Nathan Van Hook talks about his experience at Nike. Material breathability, lightness and strength. This is how design begins with the challenges set by functionality.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
Nike Lunar Orbit

What's your background and how did you come to design footwear design for Nike?I studied Product Design in Philadelphia and then went on to work in the surf industry designing technical wetsuits while also doing gallery artwork / street art, living in Los Angeles for 5 years. That combination of skills and life experiences led me to Nike and emailing Richard Clarke, the Creative Director of Nike Sportswear at the time, two years ago about being interested in Nike Sportswear. Literally two months later after interviews I moved to Beaverton, Oregon to design footwear for the boutique business with a focus on Japan.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
Aina Chukka

What did you design for Nike and which design do you think is the most innovative? Why?So far the projects that I have worked on that came to market have been the Nike Aina Chukka, Nike LunarWood +, Nike Lunar Elite Trail Mid and Nike Lunar Macleay. The Nike LunarWood +, that was done in collaboration with the guys at WoodWood, was the most innovative at the time because it was one of the first projects to use the highest level of Nike Running midsole, at the time the Lunar Glide, and it also used ION-MASK waterproof vapor technology.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer

Nike Lunar Elite Trail

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
What do you think will be the future of sneakers in terms of materials?As far as the future of sneakers in materials goes, I think Nike is truly paving the way from breathable meshes such as Nike Torch, to the composite uppers used in Nike Fuse, to shaping leather in a new way with Nike Vachtech. There will always be a demand for warm leathers but at the same time consumers are eager for better products.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer

Lifestyle look, technology and performance: what comes first in designing Nike footwear?What comes first is always a problem: we need it to be lighter, more breathable, more durable, and then using technology to solve the problem. The function really shapes the look of the product.
LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
Nike Lunar

What's your personal method in designing footwear products? Has it changed since you have started working in Nike? How?I have always been into product design and designing at a high level but the amount of scrutiny into every detail at Nike is what makes the product, and having that detailed eye has really shaped how I work.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
Nike Lunar Orbit sneaker

How has the aesthetics of Nike street footwear changed in recent years?People have so many choices now in what they wear; they really want to be in something that is comfortable as well as subtle. I think Nike has been offering more sophisticated looks recently that are timeless and can go with anything but also have the technology and comfort expected from a Nike Product.

LTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designerLTVs, Nike, Sneaker, Nathan Van Hook, footwear designer
Nike Climbers Pack

Photos © Nike, Inc.

04 February 2011