andrew oldknow, design director, NIKE golf equipment
portrait © designboom



andrew oldknow has worked at NIKE golf for the last ten years where he oversees all industrial design concepts and helps bring them to reality with the aid of his specialist teams. we spoke to andrew about his design background and asked how NIKE golf has evolved during his time at the company.



designboom: do you remember what originally made you want to become a designer?


andrew oldknow: growing up I was surrounded by design – most of my mother’s side of the family are involved with crafts or design in some form or another, there’s textile designers, silversmiths, shoe designers – so it feels quite natural that I’ve followed this path.


one instance I remember is that when I was 9 they made a review at school where they assessed how I was doing – they concluded that while I was not paying much attention to the teacher I was good at problem solving and especially good at drawing.


after school I went on to study industrial design at the art center college of design in pasadena, where it turns out a lot if NIKE designers have studied. after college I worked with cleveland where I created a new identity for the brand. after that I worked at callaway where I brought more of an industrial design sensibility to a heavily engineered research and design group. then, in 2004 the chance to work with NIKE came about and I jumped at the chance.


NIKE vapor pro driver



DB: when did you become interested in golf?


AO: I got into golf because of my dad. when I was about 10 years old he joined a golf club and I’d go with him – I’ve been playing ever since. when I was at design school I was more focused on auto-design but then when the position at cleveland came about my dad reminded me how much I loved golf and that it would be the perfect job for me.




NIKE vapor pro driver



DB: please could you describe your role at NIKE?


AO: I’m the director of golf equipment – so golf clubs, bags and gloves. my main responsibility is to make sure that the design language is consistent across all our products and that the design is also in keeping with what NIKE’s doing as a company. my job is to carry out the strategy of our design director, john hoke, and place a golf filter on it. in total NIKE golf has three design directors – one for equipment, one for footwear and one for apparel – and our job is to work together to successfully deliver innovative design that all ties in with the NIKE vision.



NIKE vapor speed driver



DB: how has NIKE golf evolved over the last few years?


AO: one thing that john hoke did when he came in was take a deep look at all of NIKE’s categories and he noticed some discrepancies between them. while the output in each category was of the best quality – there were differences in the colors, materials, design languages and communication. so his response has been to to unify the categories through design and communication – and now you can see this all falling into place.


NIKE vapor flex driver – see our article on this club »



DB: how hands-on are you with the product development?


AO: me the team do all of the design, from the brainstorming to the sketches, right-up to the 3D modeling. however, I would say that our biggest role is listening – listening to what’s going on in the marketplace, listening to our athlete’s, listening to our engineers and coming up with tangible solutions that can push things forward.



DB: what do you consider your strongest skill to be?


AO: I’m the visualizer – I’m the guy sketching and drawing out the ideas we come up with.


NIKE vapor irons



DB: in the ten years that you have worked at NIKE which project has given you the most satisfaction?


AO: I’m sure everyone tells you ‘it’s the latest one’ but in this case it really is – the vapor flex driver is the result of about 5-6 years of learning, work and engineering. knowing that we finally got this thing to work just right and get it to market has been very satisfying.



NIKE vapor pro 7 iron



DB: what do you do to keep yourself fresh?


AO: automotive design is still a big inspiration for me and then there’s the fact that we have around 600 designers at NIKE – we’re always meeting and discussing ideas with each other and pushing one another to be better – so a lot of inspiration comes from within the company.


NIKE vapor pro 7 iron



DB: what are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?


AO: I have some friends who work in the film industry and their work fascinates me – they’re usually working on films that are set in the future so, designing futuristic vehicles and buildings, blue-sky concepts… talking with those guys and seeing their work helps me think towards the future and realize that things don’t always have to look the same forever.




NIKE covert driver



DB: do you have any rules that inform your design approach?


AO: when it comes to our design we always say that our products should create ‘zero distractions for the athlete’. a lot of people think that NIKE just sign the best athletes to help sell our products but we actually get invaluable feedback from these top athletes, they really notice the smallest details in the equipment we give them and their insights lead to much better products for the everyday athlete.



NIKE covert driver



DB: what advice would you give to a young designer who wants to work in the golf industry?


AO: whether its working as a designer in the golf industry or any other industry my advice would be the same: the most important thing is to have a well rounded education – try to get on the best design course you can and learn about the process, then try to work in a couple of different sized firms and see what suits you best – find the type of place where you feel you can excel as a designer.


when we’re hiring we always look for someone that’s a good fit for the team. generally I’ll try to work with people part-time to begin with, just to see if they’re a good fit. of course you’ll need to be good – but we can always help with the talent part and train someone up. the most important thing for me is the chemistry within a team.


NIKE covert 7 iron



DB: what challenges have you set yourself for the near future?


AO: to use unexpected materials and manufacturing processes in our products. the golf industry is conservative in many ways – so we want to shake it up a bit – but only in a way that makes sense. I’d like to see if we can surprise people, in a good way with our new products.


NIKE covert 7 iron



DB: what’s your personal motto?

AO: be provocative.