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Uprising: Nando Sperb on What Keeps Him Curious and Evolving


Senior art director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about crafting and graffiti in Brazil as a child, the importance of collaboration and becoming a father during the pandemic

Uprising: Nando Sperb on What Keeps Him Curious and Evolving

(Photo: Emílio Diaz)

Nando Sperb grew up in the south of Brazil and alongside his twin (and best friend) as well as countless other children in Brazil, he has fond memories of playing football in the streets and building kites from scratch. From a young age, he was always looking for something to create. “Once, I built a BMX track with my friends with all ramps and stuff, and we liked to build those wooden flatbed carts with steerable front wheels on a single-axis, all from scratch - crazy stuff! Early in life, I started to have fun drawing, which later - when I became a rebellious young dude - led me to do graffiti. I screwed up some walls in my city doing this at the beginning when I was learning how to work with spray cans.”  

The art director believes that growing up in a multi-cultural third-world country was an important experience, where he learned to appreciate the simple things in life and practised with his creativity and crafting abilities from a young age: “It helped shape who I am and how my craft and professional skills have developed along my journey,” he says. “It allowed me to live all these vibrant and lively creative facets for a long time. There’s been so much good stuff related to music, visual arts, and food in there, which all helped to shape my visual taste.”

After studying industrial and graphic design aged 16, Nando then went on to graduate university with a degree in advertising. Some of his first work was designing music concert posters and logos for small businesses and printing with silk screen as a design school graduate. Because of this early start in the industry, he always knew that he wanted to become an art director or graphic designer and fortunately, Nando’s first professional job was as an assistant art director, working on small briefs for local supermarkets and car dealerships in southern Brazil. 

“I’ve been honing my skills since I started design school, doing a lot of hand craftwork, and then university was when I learned about graphic software,” says Nando, “I also tried many creative approaches, like photography with film, graffiti, and urban art. It kept me in this creative playground, learning all the time how to do stuff, whatever it was.” To soak up as much knowledge as possible, he would ask colleagues at agencies and studios for their Photoshop and Illustrator files, hoping to scrutinise and learn from their tricks and techniques. He says: “You’ll always have something to learn from each person you interact with. So be humble and stay open-minded to absorb knowledge.”

The project that he feels was a turning point in his career was HP’s Magic Words campaign that he worked on whilst at AlmapBBDO. “That project made GS&P find out about me, especially because this project got dozens of awards. It definitely changed my career and was the main trigger for my moving to the US.” More recently, a project that provided some creative challenges and excitement was BMW’s Ultimate AI Masterpiece, for which Nando was the art director and designer. He describes relying entirely on a machine and AI to generate artwork for the cars as “a kind of weird feeling”, but explains that any uneasiness was quickly replaced by happiness and relief. 

“It was such an exciting experience to follow the process and see how the Ai seamlessly inputted art (from different sources) and how that created more art. Those unique graphics were getting better and better after hours and hours of training of the algorithm… At our check-ins with the creative technologist, I remember each time we looked at the assets was always followed by some ‘WOW’ feeling.” 

This was just one of the “endless opportunities that you have to play with innovation and new technologies” that Nando says you get to use to enhance your storytelling in advertising. “It’s the type of thing that keeps me curious and excited about what’s next. If we made AI create an art piece inspired by hundreds of years of art history this year, what are we going to do next?”

Being involved in the production process and seeing an idea come to life is Nando’s favourite part of his job, but describes bridging the gap between concept and reality as often-times one of the hardest challenges, especially if the concept isn’t so straightforward. “When you want to do something completely new or more experimental visually, sometimes it’s tough to make people feel confident in getting into the boat with you to pursue that.” 

However, his other greatest joy is the opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from, talented people in the industry, listing projects with Rodrigo Prieto, David LaChapelle and Dua Lipa as proud moments of creative collaboration and learning. “It is insane to think about these opportunities, considering how my journey as a creative has started and from where I came. I definitely want to do more of it.” 

Some of these potential future collaborations may end up being with some of his own Brazilian, creative industry icons, sharing that he looks up to the likes of Pedro Izique, Danilo Boer and Anselmo Ramos. “I love what these guys have done throughout their careers. Pedro and Danilo are masters of crafting beautiful stories in advertising with lots of personality. Both have started crafting unique prints ads, and lots of those are made by their own hands. Those guys have too many skills. Izique has a strong connection with football, he has done outstanding campaigns for Nike Football. I love how he explores and experiments with new visual approaches in his work. And Ramos is like a magnet for excellent work -  where this guy puts his hands and brain, you will see something outstanding coming out.”

As a “very collaborative person”, Nando loves when people lend their passion and skills to a project and even hunts after behind the scenes content on any media he sees in his spare time to get a glimpse of other creatives’ processes. But as a result, he has developed a distaste for collaborations or teamwork that goes wrong or is sabotaged by one person’s ideas. “There is one thing that gets me riled up: It's when people try to change stuff based on their personal taste and nothing else.”

Looking at the industry more widely, another pet peeve for Nando is the mismanagement of talent. He explains that successful creatives get deservedly promoted following outstanding work or award show success, but to positions that require them to manage other talent. “Here, I see a gap that the industry should pay more attention to find a way to fix, because a big portion of those people are not good at doing this type of management work in their career yet. Some of them haven't even had time to develop this type of skill in their careers, so I'm not blaming them at all.” With perhaps a slightly more controversial stance, Nando also believes that the industry would be “healthier and better” without the pitching process, joking that “I don't ask dentists to compete with each other doing a treatment on me to pick the best.”

Nando moved from Sao Paulo to his current home in San Francisco in 2017 and although - like many of us - he had anxieties at the start of the pandemic, he describes a sense of blind optimism from the last couple years. “First, I said to [my wife] ‘we'll go back to the office in the middle of 2020’. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Then I told her, ‘I’m feeling that we’ll be back before my birthday (September)’. I was wrong again. Well, here we are after two birthdays celebrated at home, more than 90 weeks away from the office and with a baby (yeah, I had a baby in the meantime, Noah was born last September). Clearly, I’m not good with predictions.” Joking aside, Nando says he feels privileged to be able to stay safe at home and keep his livelihood during a pandemic that affected so many of those less fortunate.

Following the birth of his son, a lot of Nando’s free time is understandably not-so-free time anymore. However, when he has the time, he likes to cook for family and friends. “It’s such a gesture of love that makes me feel good and refreshed somehow, but also, it’s a creative process.” Besides cheffing it up in the kitchen, he enjoys all forms of media: T.V series, films, video games, books and podcasts - as well as staying creative with a variety of art forms, including digital illustrations on his iPad. 

His most treasured passions are his family, cooking and, of course, his favourite sports teams. If he can’t go to the arenas to see the San Francisco sports teams perform, or visit a football match when he’s in Brazil, he’ll watch on the TV and it's one of the little pleasures in life that he can’t live without. For his creative outlet outside of work, Nando also posts drawings and sketches to his Instagram page, where he can “go back in time to when he was just a young dude who loved to draw rebel characters in the streets and somehow be able to live that again”.

At the end of the day, what truly drives and motivates Nando and his creative work is his progression as not just an artist but as a husband, father and person. “Evolution as human being. This motivates me to challenge myself by looking for a better version of myself in daily work and life. It makes me constantly move.”

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Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Wed, 09 Feb 2022 17:24:00 GMT