How Tyson Beck Has Impacted the NBA Without Ever Picking Up the Rock

The designer is well-known throughout the league for his thumb-stopping designs.

One of Beck’s many designs. (Image via Beck’s Twitter)

Being an influencer in today’s culture is something each and every one of us do. Whether it is in our community or friendships and networking, we all have influence and impact with the people around us.

Tyson Beck, Digital Artist & Designer for the NBA, is no different.

Still not sure who I’m talking about? Maybe it is because it’s the art you notice, but not the artist, who deserves more credit. You may have seen this piece that took the Twitter world by storm earlier this year, “Old Faces Fresh Cuts.”

Beck’s inspiration for this piece came from the amount of discussion there is surrounding playing in today’s NBA.

“That project came about because there’s forever conversations about how old players would compete in the NBA today, and after seeing the recent NBA draft, I noticed the biggest change in the athletes over the decade’s appearance wise was simply the hair. So when people are recreating how MJ, Bird, Magic, etc. would appear in the NBA today, I thought, well that’s not how they would actually look if they were in the NBA today. If they were coming into the league as a rookie today, they probably would be rocking the same hair like the young kids are today. And that’s how the series was born.”

Beck hasn’t just come onto the scene though.

It has taken plenty of patience to get to where he is today as even dating back a few years ago, his position didn’t even exist.

“I didn’t expect to get this far at all, as at the time there was no industry/community in sports design, so really it was something I just enjoyed doing not thinking I could make a career out of it one day. At the time (2003), when I started playing around with making sports designs, there was just a few guys like me posting their designs in forums and that was the extent of sports design in the digital world from where I sat in.”

It is this passion for design and the countless hours spent honing his craft that has helped elevate Beck to heights he did not expect.

At a young age, even Beck’s parents saw the passion, but knew he needed something else called sleep.

“I very quickly realized design was my passion back in 2003, when I first started using photoshop. Before then I had always had a huge interest in drawing. From the first day designing on a computer when I was 13 [years old], I would come home each day of school and sit in my parent’s garage and play around with sports photos on Photoshop until past midnight, where my parents had to tell me to go to bed. I was hooked, and still am 14 years later.”

Many of us can relate to passion for certain aspects of our lives and, just because Beck can’t play the game at the highest level, doesn’t mean he can’t impact it in a way that is just as important as the action on the court.

“I always wanted to be involved in sport, mainly the NBA, but my skills, height, athletic abilities and so on were nowhere near close to ever play in it so I made design my outlet into working in sport…Work hard and be patient. Sounds simple, but that’s usually the advice I give to anyone asking. Most up and coming designers constantly compare their work to the creative people they want to be like or at the level of in the future. That’s not always the best strategy. I really think just putting in the hours working hard and staying patient is the key to growth in this industry.”

In an industry full of people that want to help, word of mouth has been impactful for Beck and his designs. The NBA is a dream for many and Beck appreciates the opportunity every day.

“Best part about working for the NBA is that it was one of my dreams growing up, it’s amazing to leave a small footprint on the league that I grew up idolizing. The opportunity to work for the NBA came about as previously mentioned how all my clients have come about, they saw my work and reached out to me.”

It is simple to appreciate our favorite player on the court and team accomplishments, but what brings so much to life is interacting with other fans across the globe with a touch of a button via social media, something that has had the biggest impact on Beck’s career

“A huge amount, the biggest single thing that has impacted my career. There’s no way that I would be working for some of the largest companies and brands in the world from my house in Australia, there’s just no way. So everyday I’m very thankful that I’m working in a time that no matter your age, sex, religion, race, location, as long as you do good work you’ll have the opportunity to succeed. In regards to the future, I think it’s obviously going to continue to grow, because of the growth it has pushed me into a lot of animation and video work for clients, including helping launch shoes for Under Armour and Nike, without the push for content that’s animated on social I wouldn’t have developed this skillset.”

Networking is something many people preach, but for Beck it has been another path that has brought about the success and his motto.

“Personally I haven’t networked once across my career, it might be the fact that I live on the other side of the world (Australia) to where my clients and work are based (USA). I know a lot of designers send their portfolios to companies and people they want to work with consistently to try and get their name out there, but I’ve just ran by the motto of — if you do good work you will be found. All the work and opportunities I’ve had in the industry have come from clients contacting me after seeing my work. I can’t say this is the best method, but I grew up quite shy and afraid to speak up about myself and my work so waiting until work comes my way is what worked best. I think the biggest key was being one of the rare creatives working in sports design a decade before it blew up like it has within the last few years.”

Impacting a culture is exactly what Beck has found himself doing and being a creative is always having a dream or an idea of what you want to do next and Beck has one that I believe many of us would dream of doing.

“I’d really have to go out of my scope of my skillset as a creative to answer this, I’d love to design a shoe for Jordan, Nike, Adidas etc. one day.”

Beck brings an insight that everyone can take and apply to what they are doing and that is arguably the best part about his position, it is not about being stable, it is about impacting an NBA culture that is growing everyday because of the social media artwork that is being put out.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

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