Alumnus Spotlight: Tory Cross

Although Tory Cross began his arts education studying sculpture at Northern Arizona University, he sought something more—and he found it in the Bay Area’s culture, energy, and size, including discovering California College of the Arts.

In addition to the move, he also switched his focus to industrial design. He explains: “A lot of the sculpture I was doing was very interactive—it wasn’t passive work—it was work where I was trying to engage viewers to interact with the pieces.”

Cross realized product design was actually sculpture that people used in their daily lives. And he also was impressed with CCA’s award-winning members of the Industrial Design Program faculty, revealing, “I liked the fact that a lot of the instructors were professionals working at the firms I aspired to work at.”

Cross remembers many late nights spent working on campus with his classmates. “We’d live in the studio and be there all night working on projects. There was a lot of camaraderie and all kinds of crazy stuff happening.” Cross joined five of these classmates in keeping that late night vibe going, even after graduation, resulting in Lift. “We all went and got real jobs, but also wanted to keep the energy we had in our studio lives intact,” he explained.

Through Lift these industrious CCA alums have had their designs featured in such well-established magazines as DNA, I.D., Sunset, Time, and Metropolis, as well as garnering numerous awards.

Cross eventually was hired at The North Face in Berkeley, the result of his student internship. Yet after three years Nike approached him. “Someone at Nike must have seen one of my designs and called looking for me,” he reveals. Initially reluctant to leave, he realized the opportunity was too great to turn down and moved to the Northwest.

Nike doesn’t permit product disclosure, but Cross boasts he’s worked on a wide array of designs from bags and backpacks to baseball bats, basketballs, even catcher’s mitts. He’s particularly proud of a recently released new Nike Air shoulder strap for bags, a design that is currently on the market. “I spent a lot of time on that project,” he explains. “The design was pretty straightforward, but how to make them was pretty hard. It was exciting and I learned a lot.”

Cross says despite his accomplishments at The North Face and Nike he’s proudest of a design he created at Lift—a sandal called the Johnny Apple Sandal, created for Metropolis magazine’s 2004 Next Generation competition. The sandal was designed to release plant seeds as the soles wear down: “The wearer leaves a wake of thriving greenery and lushness behind them just by walking around town.”

A finalist, the project was displayed at ICFF and was awarded “Most Sustainable Product” in the ICFF RAW: The Next Generation exhibit. (The sandal also was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.)

The most important thing is to never stop learning, advises Cross. “I’m learning a ton now: different design processes, manufacturing, business, marketing. I’m meeting people with amazing skill sets.”

Cross wants to be a sponge and soak up as much as he can in whatever work he does.

Born in 1977 in Tucson, AZ

CCA degree:BFA 2002, Industrial Design

Residence:Portland, OR

Current occupation:Advanced products designer, Nike Innovation Group

Influences at CCA:Tylor Garland, Jay Baldwin, Yves Béhar