January 31, 2024
Bellaluca is the Perfect Marriage of Strategy and Creativity
Agency is run by husband-and-wife team of Justin and Emily Nardone.

Strategy and design form the cornerstones of both the personal and professional relationship between Justin and Emily Nardone, founders and partners at Los Angeles-based creative agency Bellaluca.

Justin came to Los Angeles in the late ‘90s to attend the Southern California Institute of Architecture, but quickly realized that design and motion graphics were his true passion. After graduating in 2000, he worked as a motion-graphics and VFX designer in Los Angeles, freelancing for such boutique agencies as Troika, Stardust, Brand New School, Blind, Trailer Park and Ant Farm.

He returned to Connecticut in 2010 for family reasons, working with his connections to land a job at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, as an art director. He stayed there until 2015 but realized he wanted to get back to the business of making the creative instead of directing it. That's when he started Bellaluca, named after his two English bulldogs, Bella and Luca.

“Bella means ‘beautiful' and Luca means ‘bringer of light,' so together it's like beautiful light,” Justin says. “That's always been meaningful to me.”

As he was building the agency, he met Emily, who became his partner in both life and business. They joined forces in 2018 with Emily, who previously had been a vice president of marketing at an energy company in New York City, simultaneously launching her own branding and strategy agency, Wave Makers Group.

“I had also just left my job because I was kind of in the same boat and wanted to do my thing,” Emily said. “Justin and I realized that my clients needed video work while his clients needed strategy work. So it was kind of serendipitous that those two [skillsets] worked together.”

In 2020, early in the pandemic, they made the cross-country move to Los Angeles to start a new life on the West Coast. Since then, they've built a roster of clients that includes Acorn TV, Cinemax, ESPN, Fifa, FX, HBO, NASCAR and more.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is not being a typical agency. When I was on the strictly corporate side, I would get really frustrated that agencies had a template and tried to fit you into a box. With our team at Bellaluca, we explore ideas with our clients and are wide open to where that may lead. We're heavy on strategy at the start to get the story right,” said Emily.

Both Emily and Justin draw on their years of experience to offer clients a full range of services.

‘It's nice to bring up ideas to clients, whether it's new technologies we're working with or different types of videos and animations that might help them get their point across,” said Justin. “We dig deeper and look at the bigger picture to figure out how we can best serve our clients.”

Bellaluca operates with a very small team, which often finds Justin operating as a sort of one-man creative band, bringing in team members as needed.

“[Emily and I are] the ones actually doing the work. When projects get bigger, we bring in people that we know and have worked with previously. We're always the people that are directly in contact with our clients,” Justin said. “I also have a background in video so I know how to work with cameras and I'm actually the one doing all the editing or bringing it into After Effects or doing whatever we need. It's really nice to have total control of the work.”

This approach almost always leads to a longer relationship and an expansion of the project beyond the initial brief, the Nardones have found.

“A lot of the clients will come to us just for one thing, and then realize, ‘oh, there's so much more you guys can do.' And that creates this great relationship,” Emily said.

That proved true when Promax worked with Bellaluca as its 2023 experience design partner. In that role, Bellaluca designed the opening sequences for multiple Promax in-person and virtual experiences around the globe, including in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, India and Singapore. Promax's initial request of Bellaluca was for design assistance with its events in the U.S. and Europe, but that later expanded to India and Singapore. The final open, below, incorporated elements from four key locations – Los Angeles, Amsterdam, India and Singapore.

RELATED: Bellaluca Builds Connections for Promax Experience 2023

Bellaluca's design package, which is centered on the idea of connections, also played before every meeting of Promax's Festival of Virtual Content, which took place on Wednesday mornings in September, October and November.

“Promax was fun in that we were just coming in to do the events. We came up with this idea of connections, and especially in a time where we were coming out of COVID, that theme made a lot of sense and expanded into this whole narrative,” Emily said. “We got super excited when India and Asia also wanted to harness it, because [that just played further into that theme]. At this time, it's so important to consider that everything can be holistic, we can all be one, but we can also be different and appreciate those things about each other.”

Looking ahead, Bellaluca continues to be very active with multiple sports clients, drawing on Justin's background with ESPN. It also has worked with FX on an upcoming main-title sequence and has more in the offing for 2024.

Justin and Emily Nardone got on the microphone to talk about their partnership, their work at Bellaluca, their take on artificial intelligence and more in this episode of the Daily Brief Podcast.


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