Jul 7, 2023
On designing the Burger King logo and re-branding Chicken of the Sea
John founded Little Big in 2001 with the desire to create a different kind of branding firm, dedicated to doing what’s right for clients while fostering an environment where employees thrive and find balance. Under his leadership, Little Big has become a force within the industry.
John’s 30-year career includes tenures at some of the most respected consultancies in the world. He’s been instrumental in successful brand initiatives for clients including Burger King, Chicken of the Sea, Coca-Cola, Nutrisystem, Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Unilever, Campbell’s, Fleet Laboratories and Sun.
A frequent speaker at global conferences, he enjoys mentoring and lecturing at colleges like F.I.T. and Syracuse. His work, regularly featured in industry magazines, annuals and books, has won every major design award.
We spent two minutes with John to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and recent work he’s admired.
John, tell us…
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in a relatively small town on Long Island, N.Y. I now live in Westport, Conn.
How you first realized you were creative.
At a young age, I enjoyed creating new art with found objects. I’d combine them to make interesting new things. For instance, an original sculpture was made from scrap wood and a wood folding chair. I combined them into a giant sculpture and mounted it in the corner of my backyard. It was a lonely space, but I painted it white. The idea was the create a visually desirable sitting space that no one would want to sit in, and no one ever did. I may have set it on fire two years after building it, which was a pretty cool enhancement.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
From a branding perspective, Pablo Picasso. His ability to be a creator and a natural branding expert. Not only did he establish himself as the world’s most notable and memorable fine artist, but he also created his own brand along the way, known by everyone across the globe. Regardless of his personality, he led a movement that’s unlike what anyone has been able to accomplish.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
One evening while at Syracuse University, I was walking back to my room from the bus. It was late, and the snowfall was heavy and thick; my surroundings were completely quiet. It was at that moment I realized I had finally done something right. I asked myself, what was I doing here? It was at that moment I decided to take a visual time stamp. A still moment in your mind, and I remember every detail. I did that and use it at times when needed. I use it when I feel I’m knee-deep in something and may never get past it. I didn’t think I would have ever made it into college or made it through, for that matter. I realized this was my chance to change myself. I have never looked back.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
No doubt Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. He’s a creative genius who chose music. The guy can create on the fly, he’s flexible, nimble, intelligent and hyper-creative. You can see his mind constantly working.
A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I recently saw Avatar and was inspired and impressed at how you can remake the original movie with the slightest twist, so it felt newish to older viewers and new to younger viewers. It’s the slightest brand evolution. While I found it primarily loud and a replay, you have to respect the balls it takes to spend that much on a tweak.
Your favorite fictional character.
The Iron Giant. He’s scared but kind. Lost yet found and pays the ultimate sacrifice for a friend. I wish there were a second in the works.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
Absolutely nothing is worth following on social media. Put your phone down and go outside.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
I’m a social person that believes it’s best for creatives to be together most of the time. As a business owner of 22 years, Covid shutdowns were not on my bingo card. The trauma of moving people to WFH was surreal when I looked back. The added remote costs and operation management were all a learning experience. Zoom is not fun on any level, but we did our best with it.
One of your favorite creative projects you’ve ever worked on.
I was a part of the Burger King rebrand. I developed the Burger King logo I, a phase one and then worked with my creative director at the time to develop the Hebrew and Arabic versions, which are still beautiful. We had a fantastic team that worked together on rolling out super logo packaging across the globe to show the new logo. I was very proud of that and have great photos of the sign tests I did in the BK headquarters in Miami. It was a defining moment in my career. It was the first high profile global logo that I had designed. The logo ran proudly from 1999-2021 and will continue to be shown for the next few years as the brand evolves backward to its vintage logo.
A recent project you’re proud of.
Chicken of the Sea rebrand.
Someone else’s work that inspired you years ago.
The director Mike Nichols. I was fortunate to have the privilege of spending a little time with him. I admired his intelligence, vision and ability to bring the best out of his creative talent.
Someone else’s work you admired lately.
I have to admire my mentors. I have several and they somehow manage to keep me wrangled and on track. While it’s not visual design work I admire their business sense outweighs a pretty picture.
Your main strength as a creative person.
Tenacity and my ability to think as a storyteller rather than a designer. The design is just the tip; leveraging its power is everything else.
Your biggest weakness.
I have a grandiose vision which can be either amazing or debilitating.
One thing that always makes you happy.
My kids and how they keep me young and fresh.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Losing my father too early.
What you’d be doing if you weren’t in advertising.
I’m not in advertising, I’m in branding, which is far superior, but I have a side fine arts study over the last two years. You can find it on my Instagram.