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Interview
November 12, 2021

Jerry Jones Jr

Digital Design In Sports

November 12, 2021

Digital design is an essential part of today’s sports industry, and it’s gaining more attention each year with the popularity of athletes and the overall digitization of the world. We met with Jerry Jones Jr., who has been working in the frontline of design, first at Major League Baseball (MLB) and now at the National Basketball Association (NBA), to talk about the trends in design, career changes and what to expect from a design job in sports.

Jerry Jones Jr., Social and Digital Design Manager at NBA

Jerry Jones Jr. (Mook Jones Jr.), a Division I athlete turned artist from Linden, New Jersey. He graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in Graphic Design. Since then, Mook has worked as a lead designer for many corporations, including Hearst Business Media, Forever Collectibles (FOCO), Urban 1 and Major League Baseball (MLB). He is currently working as a Social and Digital Design Manager at National Basketball Association.

Part 1. Design in Sports

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FIRST OF ALL, YOU ARE A DIVISION I ATHLETE TURNED ARTIST. WOW! HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR PASSION FOR DESIGN?

I believe that my story began with sports, and it's continuing with sports. I've played organized basketball since I was 5 years old and football since the age of 7. Football is my baby, so when I would see my picture in the newspaper or online the Sunday after a high school game, I would want to edit the image to make it look like "they" would do it on TV. I never really knew how graphics were made at the time. I just knew that I wanted to do it. 

 

Over time leading into college, I discovered photoshop and never looked back. I planned to play in the NBA or the NFL, but working in sports while doing what I love creatively is the next best thing for me. I'm happy with it. 

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HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE DESIGN IN SPORTS?

 

When I think of design in sports, I imagine everything that consists of creativity: from the gear that players are wearing to a court, a field and lastly, to the way creatives can display content for the world to see. 

 

Design in sports is just art within sports. It can tell a story through imagery, or it can be informative. Either way, it’s needed to amplify teams, players and organizations.

Top apps for a productive work

Photoshop
Photoshop

I love to edit in photoshop. I can manipulate subjects with the click of a button. The interface is simple and it is so powerful

Illustrator
Illustrator

I love to create in Illustrator. It is my go to application for logos and typography. There is nothing like an image created as a vector in Illustrator that can be used anywhere without losing resolution

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WHAT ROLE, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES DIGITAL DESIGN PLAY IN THE MODERN SPORTS INDUSTRY?
 

Digital design is essential in sports. People often see ads, magazines, books, posters, flyers, etc., and overlook that somebody took time out to create those wonderful pieces of art. 

 

To that point, in most cases, fans would not know when or where a game was if it weren't for some content designed to display that information in a creative manner.

Examples of posters, Mook Jones Jr.’s portfolio

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WITH MANY BUSINESS AREAS MOVING TO ONLINE PLATFORMS, WHAT PROMOTIONAL CHANNELS ARE EFFICIENT IN THE SPORTS ARENA: TRADITIONAL (TV, BILLBOARDS) OR DIGITAL?
 

I would have to say digital. Almost everything you see on TV you will see on your phone too. Most of the time, people won't even get the information if it doesn't come through our handheld devices. 

 

For example, while working for Major League Baseball as a graphic designer, I created a visual for Vlad Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays. This illustration got so much attention because it was his first start as a rookie, and I can honestly say the graphic was that good. The piece ended up on TV before the game.

The viral graphics for MLB, Mook’s LinkedIn page

Back then, seeing my graphic on TV felt like such a big deal, but in reality, many people either didn’t see it because they don’t watch TV or the graphic being shared across social media seemed more important to them. Digital is the way of life now. Most of the information and entertainment I get comes from my phone/iPad. 

 

Design in sports is just art within sports

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WHAT ARE THE KEY TRENDS IN THE DESIGN YOU SEE BOOMING IN SPORTS RIGHT NOW?
 

  1. 3D is massive right now. 3D Type and 3D elements in the design.
  2. Typography will never go anywhere. We are figuring out more and more ways to utilize typography in design. I believe typography can serve as a great design element within an artwork without relaying a message.

For new knowledge Mook recommends:

Youtube Tutorials are your friends!
I’ve spent so much time studying tutorials. and I've learned much more about design from YouTube than I had in college

Part 2. Design Jobs

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HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR FIRST JOB IN SPORTS AS A DESIGNER?
 

If it weren't for a manager that I had at an editorial/magazine company who called me to his office and said: "Jerry, you don't want to be here, your skillset belongs elsewhere, and we are going to have to let you go. We know you are going to do big things, but you are bored here, and we see it.", I would have been stuck in an industry that wasn't interesting to me. That man was the reason I chose to get a job within sports that paid 20k less than what I was making prior. 

 

I knew I had to take the entry-level sports design job because, without sports, I was bored, and I would not be able to climb the ranks. Moreover, without that job, I would not have made my connections in the sports world.

From Mook’s Twitter and instagram pages

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HOW DID YOU LAND A JOB AT THE NBA? PLEASE SHARE THE APPLICATION PROCESS TO INSPIRE OUR READERS TO APPLY FOR THEIR DREAM JOBS

I hate to make this sound so blah, but I never applied. They reached out to me (Thank God for that recruiter!). I will say that working for Major League Baseball played a considerable part, though. MLB helped me get my foot in a lot of doors that I could not step foot into before. I am forever grateful for that organization. 

 

To be honest, it took a lot of time, work and developing relationships in the industry so that my name could be out there. You put the time in and get really good at what you do. The right people will find you. Just remain consistent and don't give up.

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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE JOB IN THE SPORTS INDUSTRY AS A DIGITAL CREATOR? WHAT ARE THE COMMON UPSIDES/DOWNSIDES?
 

If you work in social media, you will find that it is very demanding. Social media never stops. There is always a need to push out content and sometimes, you don't have time to fulfill your own creative needs because you have to constantly create for others. It can be very draining.

 

While it can be challenging, it can also be gratifying. For one, there is a lot of money to be made as a creative in the digital industry. Secondly, there is no better feeling than seeing your artwork being posted on numerous pages around the world. It's a very rewarding feeling to know that millions love your artwork.

Part 3. Ideas and Inspirations

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WHICH MARKETING CAMPAIGNS IN SPORTS DO YOU CURRENTLY ENJOY WATCHING?

 

SPN Monday Night Football

I am in love with ESPN Monday Night Football creative. The black and vault green mixed in with the gunmetal and silver is so cool to me. I love the 3D elements. They also utilize motion well in their graphics. I love everything about it.

 

Puma Basketball

I also love Puma Basketball's creative direction. They have a raw approach, which I love. The way they design their merch, sneakers and create their ads displays so much hunger and grit. A lot of it is black and white, but it works so well. The players that represent the brand also lend to the type of company they are. I love the overall look and feel that Puma brings to their marketing.

From the Puma Basketball Instagram page

Ohio State University Football

If I had to choose a sports team with a great marketing strategy, it would be Ohio State University Football. The people behind the artwork done for the team are creative geniuses, in my opinion. They utilize red, white, black and grey so well. Everything they do is usually so dynamic. If I had to choose a college to work for, it would be them.

From Ohio State Athletics Instagram page

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WE ARE APPROACHING THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW. HOW DO YOU THINK THE DESIGN IN SPORTS WILL EVOLVE IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS? 
 

In the next 10 years, I believe the sports design world will become even more saturated by great artists. Kids are developing faster, and our knowledge of the technology used to create new products is out of this world. The industry will snowball, and many will have to find new ways to stay above the curve. 

 

In the next 10 years, I believe we will be competing with more than just ourselves. More automated machines will be used to create, to save money, and we will have to learn to adapt and do things that computers need us to do.

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ANY FINAL TIPS FOR DESIGNERS WHO WISH TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THE SPORTS INDUSTRY?

 

Find an artist you love and mimic their style until you can master it and begin to throw your flavor on it.

 

It took me years before I got my shot. So my biggest piece of advice is, PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP. No matter how hard it gets or how unobtainable it seems, don’t give up. Remain hungry!

 


 

If you want to tell your career story or share your expert opinion, send us a pitch at serafima@flowmapp.com