Designing your competitive advantage: A sit-down with Tinker Hatfield

Design is a business and business is a design.  To acknowledge this relationship is to understand the power of branding. Nike, first and foremost, knows the power of brand innovation and capitalizes on this strength. And the University of Oregon has adopted their branding expertise. The school and it’s programs have become a national brand, thanks largely in part to the man behind the curtain, the creative genius who is the powerhouse for Nike creative, Tinker Hatfield.

As we sit in a conference room overlooking Eugene in the fall, a sunset compliments the dramatic air in the room. Thirty-five, University of Oregon Sports Marketing MBA’s wait patiently for an informal sit-down with one of the most respected University alums. Tinker Hatfield walks in relaxed, cool and casual.

There is a lot to respect about someone as talented and as well known as Tinker, even if you may not be familiar with the creative design process. However, in my world, he is someone I have studied and revered throughout my career. I came into this MBA program with a background in design and marketing. My undergrad degree is in graphic design but I always knew that I wanted a more dynamic career. I laid out a plan; work as a designer-gather as much experience as possible, then diversify. Get the business degree. Because, if there is anything I have learned about working for businesses as a designer, there is nothing more valuable then the communication between the business and the person/team who designs how your business is perceived in the outside world. Some people I spoke to understood my thinking, others didn’t, but then listening to Tinker address 35 MBA’s about the importance of understanding business and communication, I was validated.

Among the stories and his background he illustrated a point of advice that I think will resonate with all of us as we begin to design our post-grad careers. He said, being great at one thing is good but being good at several things is your strongest asset. He told us to use our skill diversification as a competitive advantage. There is nothing more valuable than understanding the communication between different functions in the business.  Coming from someone who has defined the importance of the creative innovation process and the effects that it has on a business empire, this advice is something that is irreplaceable. To all business professionals and those working towards their goals, remember to continue to learn and change in your surroundings and always design your own future.

Written by Lauren Stornetta

2nd year Warsaw Sports Marketing MBA. Building a career in strategic planning with a passion for creative business development.