Design grad's focus scores dream job with Suns

Jaden Guilford always dreamed of working in sports, and after graduating from GCU he landed a job as a graphic designer with the Phoenix Suns.

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

Jaden Guilford has been a big basketball fan for as long as he can remember.

Guilford was an avid basketball fan growing up, so much so that he wore a Phoenix Suns cap even though his favorite team was the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Oregon native and 2021 Grand Canyon University advertising/graphic design graduate began playing the game in kindergarten. What started as a love for the Portland Trail Blazers grew into an overarching love of the National Basketball Association.

When he moved to Phoenix to begin his program in the College of Arts and Media, an appreciation for another team began to flourish.

“That’s kind of when I started to keep an eye on the (Phoenix) Suns,” Guilford recalled.

It had always been his dream to work for a professional basketball team, and now, mere months after completing his program, that dream has become a reality. Earlier this year, shortly after Winter Commencement, Guilford was hired as a graphic designer for the Suns.

“It’s been a lot of fun to work on a variety of projects for a professional basketball team, which was always my goal growing up,” he said.  “It was pretty cool to reach that.”

But achieving his childhood dream did not come without hard work. While completing his undergraduate degree, Guilford utilized every opportunity to build connections and network with professionals in the field. He even took advantage of learning opportunities outside the sports world.

Guilford graduated from GCU in December.

“I used to reach out on LinkedIn to a lot of NBA designers, and I would have phone call conversations with them or just message them and ask them questions about ‘Oh, how did you get there? What was your journey like? What advice do you have for someone who wants to be where you are?’” he said. “Just getting your name in the mouths of other people who are in the industry is really beneficial.

“It was just kind of a snowball effect of me reaching out to people and them reaching out to me back.”

In building those connections, Guilford often heard about struggles others had faced in their respective degree programs – struggles that Guilford said were not an issue for him while at GCU.

“I’ve heard of a lot of people who have horror stories about their professors saying, ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You should do this and go into this field,’ and I’ve seen other sports designers say, ‘Yeah, my professor said you can’t really work in sports,’” he said.

“I never really had that issue. There were always supportive professors that I had pushing me to be my best … and just really showing us that no matter what we want to do, we can do it.”

Guilford is a prime example.

Guilford began his career with the Phoenix Suns earlier this year.

Not only did he follow his heart and make his dreams a reality, but he has had the opportunity to fully immerse himself into the culture of a new team and fandom. Since beginning his role with the Suns, he and fiancée Jiselle Mariano have become what Guilford describes as “full-time fans” of the Suns.

Having an office space in the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix is definitely a plus too.

“I’m all in,” he said. “We’ve gone to almost every home game since I started, so we’ve really become big fans.”

With the diverse training he received from his time in college and the constant encouragement from his professors, Guilford found his footing doing what he loves for a living.  

It’s not every day that a recent college graduate lands his dream job, but Guilford said can be achieved by anyone willing to work for it.

It’s all about keeping your eye on the prize.

“I’ve heard a lot of advice from people saying not to narrow your focus too much, and I think, in a way, it’s good to not be a one trick pony, per se," he said. "But, for me, it really worked out to solely focus on sports. I knew I wanted to go into that field, so from freshman year I took whatever opportunity I could or whatever project I could to work in sports.”

His advice is simple:

“Pursue whatever you want to pursue. It doesn’t matter how prestigious or big the opportunity is. Just take whatever it is that you’re given.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: College of Arts and Media: a new era for the arts

GCU Today: Seniors' talents on full display at Design Showcase

GCU Today: These brothers have designs on the same path


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(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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