Storyboard: Martin Lotti

Soaring with his own wings

One of the most treasured items from my youth was the Michael Jordan “Wings” poster hanging in my childhood bedroom. Beneath Jordan’s outstretched arms, it bore the quote: “No bird soars too high, if it soars with its own wings.” Throughout my youth, that poster was a beacon and those inspirational words had a lasting impact on me.

I grow up in Fribourg, Switzerland. My family took a two-week trip to America when I was 16. At the end of our trip, our family friend asked if I would consider staying for a year as an exchange student in Oregon. Though terrified, I was more excited about the opportunity to experience a culture that was vastly different than the small town I was from. When my year wrapped up, I went to Niketown Portland for one last visit. Everything at the store was something I wanted but couldn’t afford. I ended up spending all my money on a pair of Air Max 180s and the Michael Jordan “Wings” poster.

I went back to Switzerland to finish my high school studies. Despite the urging of my high school teachers for me to pursue studies in astrophysics, I ended up going to ArtCenter Europe for product design to follow my passion for drawing and problem solving. After my 4th term, I went to ArtCenter Pasadena, where I would eventually enjoy my second American exchange opportunity. I was barely there 6 months, when I learned that ArtCenter Europe would close permanently.

I went into panic mode. This was not good. Everything I knew was in Europe – my family, my friends, my apartment, everything! Like many students from the Europe campus, I had to move to a foreign country, find an apartment, and get a car all within weeks to be ready for a new school term. We found support in each other and also made friends with follow students from the Pasadena campus to help navigate the new terrain.

During this time, I met a lovely woman in my vis-comm class, Linda Mai, who later became my wife. She did an internship at Nike. We bonded over our love for the brand and the transcendent impact of sports. After listening to Linda’s experience, I applied for an internship at Nike and ended up with a full-time footwear designer job instead.

Twenty plus years later, both Linda and I are leaders within Nike’s design community of 1,000+ creatives, many of them graduates of ArtCenter. We have worked on everything from Olympics, World Cup, Brand Design, Innovation, Footwear and Apparel for everyday athletes and professional athletes alike. Our education at ArtCenter prepared us well for the diverse range of projects. Our shared understanding of the designer’s perspective helped us support each other during intense work and global travel.

The Air Max 180s I bought as an exchange student came full circle as I got to design the Air Max 360 to continue the Nike Air Max lineage.

During the past year, I took over as VP of Design for Jordan Brand. In my conversations with Michael Jordan, I found him just as competitive post retirement. His dedication to excellence is inspiring.

Recently, our family obsessed over The Last Dance documentary. It reminded us that the game of basketball is an allegory for life. Set a clear goal, have a relentless work ethic, and adapt to challenges as they come.

Occasionally, I have to remind myself that, although my life has been circuitous and unpredictable, there is a silver lining in every crisis. At the time, I thought ArtCenter Europe closing was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Today, I see it as a blessing as it opened up worlds and experiences beyond my dreams.

ArtCenter gave me the tools to combine the two things I am most passionate about: design and sports. It taught me to dream for a better future and soar beyond limits.

Martin Lotti
BS 97 Product Design
Vice President, for Jordan Brand at Nike

ArtCenter gave me the tools to combine the two things I am most passionate about: design and sports.

Martin LottiVice President, Jordan Brand at Nike
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