Sports Plus Art? It All Makes Sense for Sherry Jones

April 8th, 2014 by IMAGE Magazine
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Above: Sherry Jones drawing at her station in the wide-open design space at Priority Designs. Photo: Nick Fancher

Sherry Jones drawing at her station in the wide-open design space at Priority Designs. Photo: Nick Fancher

By Kristen M. Foley

Picture a serious athlete. Now picture a serious artist. Not a lot of overlap, right?

But as you walk through any sporting goods store and look at all the amazing shapes and colors — or take some of those products out on the court and feel your performance soar — you’re bound to see that sports and art are a lot more alike than you thought back in high school.

Sherry Jones (CCAD 1992) is a thriving example. Now a senior industrial designer at Priority Designs, an award-winning and internationally active product design firm, Jones has for 20 years blended applied art and applied science in her ascending roles in the field. If you owe your success on the back nine to Nike Golf or TaylorMade, you have her to thank.

It all started out with art — and sports.

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Products that Jones has designed or supervised include the pad of a football helmet for Rawlings. Photo: Nick Fancher

What made you choose industrial design as your career path?

Well, I just think we found each other. I was always the kid who gave the handmade gifts to family members for every occasion…things that I could make out of scraps of wood from my dad’s remodeling projects, tree branches and rocks from the backyard, and leftover paint from my brother’s model airplane kits. As I got older the gifts changed from small sculptures to landscape and still-life drawings and paintings.

But I wasn’t the kid who was known for doing art, because my other passion was sports. Any kind of sports: softball, basketball, football, soccer, BMX biking, swimming, tennis, golf, and every made-up backyard game.

My friends would also ask me to fix and customize their bikes; that’s what I would do in the winter to my bike, so it would feel like I got a brand new bike every spring. We didn’t have the money for new parts, so my brother and I would dumpster-dive after other kids would get new bikes for school, strip down the frames, pull off the good parts, and make “new” bikes.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that most people discovered my passion for art. That’s when I got accepted to Fort Hayes Career Center for Commercial Art.

When did you decide that CCAD was the next step for you?

On the first day of school my junior year, Mr. Hans Rietenbach told the class of 12 that we were all artists and would be for the rest of our lives. That comment really stuck with me. He was a huge influence on my path as an artist.

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The FlexLoft dual-axis adjustment system for Nike Golf. Photo: Nick Fancher

Two or three times that year he toured our class throughout CCAD to observe and critique the student work. The last building we toured was V-Hall; it had industrial design in the basement. It was then that I.D. and I found each other.

Are there moments since then that have confirmed your choice?

The cheesy answer is “every day.” One moment that stands out in my mind was the first open house at Priority Designs when my dad said to me, “You found the coolest job in the world. I can see by the look on your face you already know that, don’t you?”

What does your day-to-day work entail?

A normal day is managing the client accounts for which I’m point person: Nike Golf and Truth Hardware. Most of my clients tend to be in an active life category, which is anything that will get the body or mind moving.

I make sure their needs are met and we get to do everything possible we can for them. This involves proposal writing, project start-up meetings, team organizing, brainstorming, sketching, concept rendering, and presentations of the ideas to the client.

Everyone here at Priority Designs also has the responsibility of assisting their co-workers in meeting their deadlines in a timely manner. This means I may be in the shop working on models, photographing a finished prototype, running out to a store to do research, putting the final touches on a presentation.

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r7 clubs and a point-of-sale display for TaylorMade. Photo: Nick Fancher

How did your education prepare you for this?

CCAD honed all my talents — from sketching and model making to critiquing and presenting.

Any advice for current students?

Believe in yourself, but remain humble because everyone can and will teach you something.

Be able to sketch in 3D fast, readable, and understandable. Have an understanding of how things are made and what materials should be used. And expect your “to-do list” to change every 10 minutes.

Which daily tasks do you enjoy the most?

How about the aspect that I hate the most: proposal writing, because I’m dyslexic and a horrible typist! I save this until the evenings at home where I can focus.

Green Tea faucet for American Standard photo: Nick Fancher

Green Tea faucet for American Standard photo: Nick Fancher

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Being an employee at Priority Designs. [In particular right now, I’m working on a product that] will be world changing in the sporting goods industry. It will be everywhere when it’s done. It’s moving along rapidly, and it will be the coolest project I’ve ever been a part of.

A urinal. Having to interview my other coworkers, clients, and family members on the use of this was interesting.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in this occupation?

I’m fortunate that I’ve not experienced any challenges because of my gender.

What skills must an industrial designer pay attention to that a fine artist or illustrator might not need?

One task designers have to do is make something “better.” So always question everything: why do we do a task like that, why do you make it like that? Then ask: can we do this?

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One Response to “Sports Plus Art? It All Makes Sense for Sherry Jones”

  1. Miranda Steinhauser says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Sherry Jones at Priority Designs as a co-op student designer for a semester. She has amazing talent and grit, a huge asset to the Priority Team. I learned a lot from watching her work and hope that my professional career in industrial design will become as influential and respected as hers.