If Hal Curtis, 38-year-old co-creative director on

If Hal Curtis, 38-year-old co-creative director on Nike at Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., had stuck with his original plan, he would be an accountant.

“I come from a family of accountants,” he explains. “So when the counselor my freshman year in college asked me what I wanted to major in, I said, accounting.”

Instead, after studying marketing at Southern Methodist University, Curtis joined The Richards Group in Dallas as an account executive. “I was horrible at it,” he admits. “But I loved the agency and what I saw the writers and art directors doing. And I had drawn all my life.”

Encouraged by mentors Stan Richards and Glenn Dady, he studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. After stints at Pagano Schenck & Kay in Boston and Leonard/Monahan in Providence, R.I., he joined Wieden + Kennedy five years ago.

There, paired with creative directors Chuck McBride and Bob Moore, he has worked on the Nike account since October 1997. Curtis has created spots with sport stars such as Gabrielle Reece and Mark McGwire, as well as last year’s “Beautiful,” which earned praise for spotlighting handicapped athletes.

Curtis was the art director on Nike’s Emmy-winning “Morning After.” He promptly gave it to his mother since, “It was the first award I won that she knew what it was.” He also art directed the offbeat “Gladiator” spot in Nike’s “Why Sport?” campaign, in which extreme skateboarder Neil Urwin is accosted by a man in a gladiator suit.

Curtis, who has a “heart the size of Texas,” claims Jim Riswold, his current partner on the Nike account, says that while he enjoys being a creative director, it can be difficult.

“I’ve always disagreed with the point of view that when you criticize someone’s work, you’re criticizing the work, not the person,” Riswold says. “I think with very passionate, talented creatives it’s all intertwined somehow.”

Art directing is his way of relating to his creative staff. “To be an effective creative director, you have to earn the right to comment on someone else’s work,” he says. “You accomplish that by doing work creatives respect, work they wish they had done. If you can’t do that on a regular basis, why should they listen to what you have to say?”

The new year will find Curtis, who is married and has two kids, Hannah, 8, and Will, 5, shopping for a publisher for a children’s book he recently collaborated on with his daughter. (Fittingly, she wrote it; he art directed it.)

Now that the SAG strike is over, he’s looking forward to working with Tiger Woods again after a yearlong hiatus. “He’s amazing, the Michael Jordan of the brand,” says Curtis, who art directed the well-received Woods’ spots, “Driving Range” and “Hackeysack.”

He continues to find inspiration in the creative standard he finds at Wieden. “There’s a whole lot of extremely talented people around here,” he says. “At some point, some of that is bound to rub off on you.”