The story of the 11 is a fascinating one, because it began when Michael Jordan was about to retire from the game of basketball. Former Nike designer Ken Black, who was the product graphic designer/art director for the Air Jordan 11, was part of one of the first meetings when Jordan was trying out the AJ 11 prototype in late 1993. That meeting included Jordan, designer Tinker Hatfield, legendary Nike exec Howard “H” White, and several others. “It is a bit of a blur, but from what I recall, we knew we had to get his review of the proposed line,” says Black. “I recall getting to [Jordan’s] condo for the meeting in Arizona and waiting forever for him. We were told he decided to make the return and finish another nine holes of golf.
We hand-created and illustrated the apparel line with markers and mounted them on presentation boards to share with Michael,” Black continues. “We brought material swatches to give him a sense of what the garments would feel like. The sneaker was nowhere near complete, and looked fairly different than the finished product. I am pretty sure Tinker had already shown a version of the shoe to MJ when the rest of us weren’t there. This prototype was more about figuring out if the function and feel — like the wrapped collar — worked, and then adding in the graphics and identity to it. They had a great relationship already, and MJ would give him shit about the stuff he’d bring to share, even though he loved it.
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