Today, we profile Tom Jones, Nixon Global VP Marketing & Creative, for our Core Careers feature.
Tom came up through the skateboard industry, and joined Nixon in 2014 as Creative Director. He was promoted to his current position earlier this year.
Before Nixon, Tom held executive creative positions at a number of action sports brands including, DC Shoes, Plan B Skateboards, and Dyrdek Enterprises.
Did you know what you wanted to be when you were growing up?
Tom Jones: Yes, for the most part. I found skateboarding when I was 10 and that summer I was given a VHS copy of Powell Peralta’s video Future Primitive, which had a profound effect on me.
The creativity in that video along with the board graphics and skate mags at the time introduced me to a world I knew I wanted to be a part of. While I wanted to be a sponsored skateboarder one day, I became almost more obsessed with the creative and artistic side of skateboarding: the ads, the graphics, videos and the companies.
I began to understand there were people behind the brands like Craig Stecyk and Stacy Peralta who created everything as well as pros who did their own graphics like Lance Mountain and John Lucero who then went on to start their own brands.
These people along with skate graphic artists like Jim Phillips were big inspirations and proof it was possible to be a part of the skate industry in a creative capacity, beyond just being a pro skateboarder.
As a result, I was pretty focused early on that I wanted to become an artist in the skateboard industry.
What kind of student were you?
Tom Jones: I was a decent student, though math was always a challenge for me. I would constantly draw skateboarding logos, shoes and skate parks all over my homework.
My parents were maybe confused at times but supportive of my love for skateboarding and art. Their biggest ask was to do my best and finish what you start, more about work ethic vs. pressure to get straight A’s.
My freshman year I had an art teacher that made a big impact on me and encouraged me to merge skateboarding ideas into my projects, which was when things really started to click for me with school. Ultimately that led me to art school where things really took off.
What were some of the most important lessons you learned during your time in the skateboard industry?
Tom Jones: There are a few. I think one of the most important things is your reputation whether creatively or simply having your word mean something. It is such a small industry and if you are a flake, can’t finish anything, or burn people, you won’t make it very far.
Something I think a lot of creative people struggle with is being on time with projects. We tend to constantly refine things. As you gain experience you quickly learn how important it is to the business to deliver great work on time.
The second is to be real, be humble and check your ego. The best work comes from collaborating, focusing on your team dynamic and the integrity of the work itself vs. trying to get all the credit for cool ideas.
Lastly, not being a quitter and sticking out a job for a period of time. I see people bounce around year after year and they are never able to build a reputation or work of any substance. I am fortunate to have been at a few brands for almost 20 years and as a result, I have built some great relationships, and have had some rewarding experiences and projects.
I have tried to approach my work like a skateboarder would approach being a pro on a team or filming a video part.
What intrigued you about the Nixon job?
Tom Jones: I was just getting out of art school when Nixon launched and I remember the team and the brand vibe being really well done. Over the years, the creative integrity of the brand image, the team involvement and premium product design always felt very considered.
I had known Chad (DiNenna, Nixon co-founder) for a while through the industry and some of the team guys and we were always friendly. When the opportunity came up for Nixon to bring on a creative director, we spent a while talking about the future of Nixon. My goals aligned really well with the brand's and it was the right time to team up.
For me it is rad and humbling to be able to help drive the brand into a new chapter with such a solid foundation and legacy of design work.
How are you balancing keeping Nixon’s image with the core market on point while also broadening Nixon’s appeal to the larger consumer world?
Tom Jones: For us, it is important to be ourselves and honest wherever we show up. It’s about having one mindset regardless of the channel you're in. People respond to our brand story even more when we talk to people outside of sideways culture.
I have seen brands make the mistake of changing and catering to a different audience and they quickly lose the brand story, authenticity and unique design point of view. Honesty just works.
What is your biggest work priority at the moment, and how are you tackling it?
Tom Jones: The brand has grown and evolved over the last few years and we see a great opportunity to refresh and elevate the brand elements on a global level. As we continue to branch out to new audiences it is important that we be tighter than ever and clearly express the brand point of view everywhere.
So, we are taking a step back as a team and looking at our digital content and platform, our fixture program, retail and new brand campaign as well as our product stories.
All these elements need to powerfully convey the brand story and work together seamlessly. The focus right now is tying it all together and refreshing the brand going into Fall/Holiday ‘15.
Any advice about how you juggle long-term and big picture goals while still managing day to day?
Tom Jones: To me, there are two key ones. In my experiences, you need to be organized to be creative. If you can’t manage your time wisely or prioritize, it will be nearly impossible to manage the inbox and plan the next season at the same time.
Secondly, you need a team of passionate, driven people. No matter how creative you are you won’t pull it alone.
To me, it’s about building and inspiring a team and tapping into their talents and creating an environment that allows people to do the best work of their careers.
It’s all about setting a vision and goals that people can relate to, contribute to and be fully engaged in. Time and people allow you to live in the now and several seasons out without getting jammed up.