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Jordan Shorthouse, Creative Director, Turner Sports: Risk Taking as Art

Neil Shorthouse presented Jordan Matthew Shorthouse, Creative Director at Turner Sports – Warner/Media. Jordan is the son of Neil and Patty and Jeanne Shorthouse. Neil and Jeanne adopted Jordan when he was 6 weeks old in July 1970. Jordan's presentation centered on family, learning/education, and work (specifically his 23 years at Turner). When working on his design degree at Georgia State University, he began working with his stepmother Patty at Exodus Press. He worked in the office but also made deliveries and picked up print jobs – Patty also taught him graphic design, complementing perfectly his artistic interests. Eventually, Patty left to run Communities In Schools of Atlanta, which led to Jordan taking over the business, still attending GSU, and being the father to three young kids, Xavier, Giana, and Caleb. Like many who have good friends, Jordan met his soon-to-be-boss through a friend, Rodney Vaughn. Rodney took Jordan's portfolio to Skot Linder, the Design Director at Turner Sports at the time. Skot called Jordan and said he had seen his work and wanted to talk about Turner and motion design graphics for sports telecasts. Jordan said he had never heard of motion design graphics for sports broadcast, but Skot saw potential and told him, “You'll pick it up if you follow me around.” Over the years, Jordan was able to pick up on motion design theories by shadowing Skot. At Turner, Jordan manages three departments: NBA –TV's broadcast design department, Turner Sports broadcast design team, and a third department that handles all of the print marketing needs for Turner Sports. Together these departments produce all of the design business for Turner Sports. When Turner acquired NASCAR.com in 2005, leadership asked Jordan to join the team to help launch the web site. Again, he found himself in a design area he knew nothing about. He took on a 12-hour day for many months. It worked well, but when NASCAR.com asked Skot about Jordan coming to NASCAR.com permanently, Skot said 'NO,' which Jordan says saved him for much greater opportunities. Another critical moment in design occurred when Jordan met a courier in the Turner elevator. He asked the young man what he was interested in – art, he said back. So Jordan asked him if he would show Jordan some of his work, which he did. Jordan bought one of his drawings, which led to the design and creation of print production material. Jordan also talked about risk-taking and how that has had an impact on his career. He shared some examples of how risk-taking has played a significant role in his success. It's been a guiding principle for him at work and in his personal life. An example is that he once hired a company out of Venezuela to pitch for an NBA All-Star package design. He was intrigued by the idea that they would come to the table with something entirely new for the genre. He says that he may not always go the safe route. The potential is not always defined, but that excites him. He added, "this isn't called ‘risk’ for nothing! It's time that we learn to get comfortable outside of our comfort zones, especially in our current social climate. You have nothing to lose by taking some risks. Sometimes you'll fail. But at least you can say, YOU went for it!" Jordan encourages everyone to Be daring, be Different, be Risky! Kevin Wilson asked where do you get inspiration? Jordan says it's the most significant part of the job, and it often begins with pencil and paper. There are so many places to find inspiration, especially on the Internet. You have to be on the lookout for anything new and creative. Kevin also asked how do you know what will work and won't work? Jordan said, "It's just a feel – you just know." He described a graphic they had done for MLB. Within ten minutes of the first telecast, they knew it was not working, and they had to make immediate changes. Jordan described other risks that have worked and some that did not. Success in the creative process means being able to sense what will work and what does not. Along the way Jordan’s Turner Sports Team has won several Emmy Awards and he's just submitted another entrée for another Emmy award. Mark Newman asked how does Turner retain people because design groups frequently struggle with company loyalty. Jordan said two things keep people committed to Turner: 1) the facility and resources are unmatched in Atlanta and probably the southeast, and 2) Turner has built a campus the supports employees with every amenity possible, salaries and benefits, and much, much more. So leaving Turner for him would mean he'd have to go to NYC or LA. President Kimberly asked what he would advise a 27-year-old Jordan. Jordan responded, “First, learn everything and be willing to take a risk. Don't shy away from opportunities even though they may not align with your vision. Second, understand that you don't own perfection, which is generally hard for artists to admit. One has to be willing to acknowledge that something is not right, even if you created it.”

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
October 16, 2020 2:00pm

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