Since Mark Parker became chief executive in 2006, Nike’s annual revenue is up 60 percent, profits have increased 57 percent, and its market cap has more than doubled. The success of Nike stems from how well Parker has embraced innovation and prioritised design. He is one of three members of HTM, a three-person design collaboration, alongside designer Tinker Hatfield and creative consultant Hiroshi Fujiwara, that functions as Nike’s core R&D team. HTM is an unusual collaboration: it resides within a $26 billion dollar company yet it operates without deadlines or budget constraints and is guided solely by the interests of its three members. To date, the trio has launched 17 widely varied limited-edition shoes.
During his tenure as chief executive Parker has overseen sportswear giant Nike’s emergence into the fashion industry’s orbit. Parker has successfully appealed to the street style generation with what have become must-have products, most notably Nike’s Free Runs, Air Max and Fly Knit product lines. Fast Company named Parker the most creative chief executive in 2012.
Parker’s ability to market Nike’s brand through its design sensibility, as well as its products’ functionality, stems from his personal experience as a member of the company’s design team. Having graduated from Penn State University in 1977, with a degree in Political Science, Parker joined Nike in 1979 as a footwear designer based in its research and design facility in Exeter, New Hampshire. To this day the executive’s office is filled with design paraphernalia: huge canvas art works, statuary and collections of Japanese robots are displayed in a kaleidoscope of colours, in every space possible.
Parker became Division Vice President in charge of development in 1987, Corporate Vice President in 1989, General Manager in 1993 and Vice President of Global Footwear in 1998. Prior to becoming chief executive, he served as co-president with Charlie Denson from March 2001, until his appointment to chief executive in 2006.
Parker continues to contribute to the company’s design processes and Nike’s lasting legacy.