5 Questions with HOW Design Live Speakers: Crystal Bennett and John Nunziato

As we get closer to HOW Design Live this May, we're sitting down with some of our speakers to share a sneak preview of what you can expect. This week we spoke with Crystal Bennett and John Nunziato of Little Big Brands about spec work, the alignment of client values, and their very strict "no a-hole policy."

TC: How did you come to the realization that spec work is threatening to ruin the design industry?
LBB: At LBB, we've started to get spec requests much more frequently. And it’s not just the volume of requests increasing, but the way in which they're being camouflaged... from the deliverables (just a mood board) to the type of spec work (we’ll pay if we choose your work) to the ultimate carrot dangle (this is the first of many projects).

TC: How can designers best find clients whose values align with theirs?
LBB: Frankly, it’s very straightforward in our eyes...you either have chemistry with clients or you don’t. Trust your gut if something feels off. Beyond that, look for folks asking the right questions and coming to the table with a respectful attitude and an understanding that design is a valuable asset for their brand.  

TC: Little Big Brands has a “no a-hole policy.” What are some of the biggest red flags for this when talking with prospective clients or employees?
LBB: Absolutely, we don’t work for or with a-holes. Again, it comes down to gut. If there is a lot of carrot dangling, dancing around issues, an inability to talk frankly about budget, that is telling of what’s to come. It’s also about chemistry - if the conversation is awkward and the chemistry isn’t there, there is a good chance the partnership won't be successful. And when it comes to hiring new LBB'ers, we make it a rule to stay away from anyone who bad-mouths other agencies, shares anything proprietary, or gossips.

TC: In regards to your presentation, what is one valuable piece of advice or information you hope attendees walk away with?
LBB: It’s OK to say no. Your intellectual property, your skills and talents are all worth something. Respect yourself and your agency; don’t give it away for free. Let's band together as creatives, support each other and resist the temptation to do free work… it will make our industry that much stronger and ultimately stop the spec cycle.

TC: In the past year, what has been the most promising advance in the packaging world? What about the biggest disappointment?
LBB: Promising: The transparency we are seeing companies embrace in our industry. For example, Campbell’s support of GMO labeling.
Disappointing: Spec of course!

Theresa entered the world of design through The Dieline. With a background in writing and journalism, she has a passion for discovery and cultivating human connections. Her work for The Dieline is a constant journey to deeply understand all facets of the design process and to investigate what makes designers tick. Theresa's writing has taken her snorkeling in between the tectonic plates in Iceland, horseback riding through a rural Brazilian town, and riding an octopus art car at Burning Man with Susan Sarandon as part of a funeral procession for Timothy Leary (long story). When not writing, she is planning her next trip or taking too many pictures of her cat.