The Egotist Briefs: Layne Braunstein and Josh Horowitz of Fake Love

By christinewatson / / Illustration by Justin Teodoro. Layne Braunstein, Founder & Executive Creative Director Josh Horowitz, Founder & Head of Creative Development ——————– Fake Love is an interesting name. Is there a particular meaning behind it? You know, it’s funny. For those who don’t know us it’s a really easy segue into explaining what we do: We’re an experiential agency, and everything that we do is aimed towards eliciting an emotion from the participant, from the user, from the viewer, from whoever is engaging with our work. And the way we do that, we see as being entirely fabricated. It’s a combination of art and design and technology, so in a way, we’re creating some kind of fake emotion through the work that we do. It really is a play on advertising. When we say, “I want to make you laugh, or I want to make you cry, or I want people to smile when they see this,” it’s our job to make that happen. We’ve had friends who are Creative Technologists. Part of their job is defining what exactly a CT is and does (usually on job interviews). What’s your definition of Creative Technologist? We’d more or less describe it as someone that knows physical computing, but it really is tough to specifically define because it’s almost like someone saying they’re a producer, and they can be one of five different types of producers. It’s the same thing for creative technologists — some are more visual-based, some are more fabrication-based, some a little more back-end. When it comes to our team at Fake Love, each person is strongly skilled in a particular area, but they know a bit about everything that everyone else does. We don’t necessarily give ourselves the ‘Creative Technologist’ titles, it’s just more for explaining what we do to other people. There are even times we have to tell a lady in the bank or even family and friends that we’re in advertising, because they don’t quite understand what experiential does. Everyone here actually considers themselves an artist or designer, and who has specialties in certain areas. Right now it feels like it’s pretty much just a buzzword. Internally, we don’t really label anyone a creative technologist because we all do completely different things. There are some projects (events and installations) we do that don’t even have a single line of code but are still experiences. It goes back to our core values of what we always aim to do — elicit and evoke an emotion within a user. So if someone wants to work with you, what sort of experience do you look for? It really depends. Obviously for any kind of position, there’s going to be a specific skill set required. And that’s more granular to speak to. But one thing that we always look for is somebody who is fearless because every project we do is something that’s really new, which is awesome, but it also poses the challenge of running into problems that we didn’t foresee. You don’t really even know what you don’t know at the start of a project, so we look for people that are smart, creative, can deal with challenges as they arise and aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I’m going to dive in and start figuring this out.” We also try to look for people that have some kind of art background or are passionate about art and/or design. That’s really important, and it comes across. Sometimes we’ll ask people silly questions, even like what kind of music they like. One of our application requirements was to actually make us a playlist. It was a weird/fun part of the process, but we can’t reveal all our hiring secrets. What sort of place would you like Fake Love to become five to ten years down the road? We’re actually actively expanding right now. Physically we’re getting close to opening an office in LA because we’ve recently been working on quite a few projects out there, including the installation for RYSE at the E3 conference. There’s a market on the West Coast we’ve started to dip our feet into. Next up after LA, we’ll start looking into an opening in Europe. We’ve started to work with a couple different people in Europe, so it’s definitely on our radar. We’re taking it one step at a time, though, but we’ve grown very strategically and organically. We manage our time efficiently in the sense that we have strong R&D and discovery time set aside for art. After all, that’s the sort of stuff that fuels almost everything we do. As the company grows we’re looking to take on less project-based stuff and tackle more long-term campaigns with brands. What’s the most recent thing you’ve seen that immediately made you wish you had thought of it first? LAYNE BRAUNSTEIN: The Oculus Rift, really pissing me off right now because it’s so awesome, and it should have come out ten years ago. It’s a virtual reality headset for 3D gaming, and it’s surprising it took so long. I remember going to a mall when I was young, they had Virtual Boy, but it wasn’t quite there yet. Oculus Rift is on a totally different level, though. JOSH HOROWITZ: For me, it’s a set of headphones that just came out called Parrot Headphones, and they are the most basic and ingenious interface you could possibly use. When you take them off your head, the music stops. If you want the volume to go up, you touch the side of it and just push up, but it’s not a button, it’s touch-sensitive. I feel like many times when people design a product that’s supposed to be easy to use, they make it overly complicated and you have to learn a whole new set of gestures or controls to use it. The best products are the ones that have such a simple user experience that you seem to innately know what to do. There’s a lot to keep up with in the tech world. How do you keep up with it while presumably keeping up with the ad world at the same time? You can’t, it’s constantly changing at an extraordinarily fast past, and to be honest, we don’t really try to keep up with the ad world very much. We do, however, keep up with art and design world since those are more inspirational to us. We’re doing a lot of work in advertising that hasn’t really been done or explored before, which is successful because we stick to our art and design roots and continue to let that lead us. Our focus is always on the design or artwork of the commercial. For example you’ll rarely hear someone in our office saying, “Have you seen this ad”? It’s always, “Hey, did you see what this artist did for this project”? We know what’s going to evoke an emotion and we know how to create/design to do just that. Ultimately that’s at the base of advertising, it’s a psychological game. We’ve been working in this field for a long time. When we graduated, there wasn’t a marketplace for what we do. For the past three years, we’ve been talking about and trying to explain to people what we want to do. And finally, now, there are names for that type of stuff — transmedia, experiential, multiplatform storytelling, etc. Those didn’t exist a few years ago. But it’s tough because even though there’s a name to it now doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist before. We love the “R&D” section of your site. It seems like a great way to foster creativity. What’s the story behind it, have any of these projects led to anything beyond being research and development? Well we spend approximately 30 to 40% of our time working on art projects or discovery R&D. And I think that’s what draws people to us. Our work with Shen Wei Dance Arts is actually what really put us on the map and first got us noticed. That was something we did because Shen Wei invited us to a site-specific piece that he did at the Met. We were awestruck by his work and immediately said, no matter what he’s doing, we want to be involved with him. And the pieces we created and the experiences we had with him were absolutely amazing. There are a handful of R&D projects that have, in one way or another, been developed into more extensive work or have found their way into other projects. Honestly, I don’t think anyone’s called us up and said, “Yeah, I’ve seen this R&D, and I want to do this project,” but it’s good for inspiring a client and it effects how agencies and brands look at us. For example, a current project we’re working on involves a lot of music. Since many of our projects for clients involve music and we also have a lot of R&D projects that involve music, the combination of the two definitely helped us get the job because they saw that work and acknowledge that we’re really into design, we’re really into music, and that kind of thing. So it seems to us that most agencies are still trying to figure out digital, when digital is all you do. What’s the one thing you think most other agencies haven’t figured out yet? Almost everything we do is digital in some capacity, but at the same time that all depends on how you define digital. Something completely different about us is that our backgrounds enable us to speak to specifics and break things down for agencies and brands in a way that makes sense to them. Also, everybody on our team can lend a hand in making any aspect of a project. We’re all also a huge part of a community that is building this type of stuff. We have meet-ups for different technologies, so we’re not just surfing the web for information. We’re actively engaged in the community, and that reflects in the quality of work we produce. We’re not just talking about it; we’re doing it. We heard you did some work at E3. We love E3. Care to share the work you did while you were there? We built an installation for Crytek’s “Ryse: Son of Rome” exclusive Xbox One release. We wanted to stay in line with the fact that the life of a Roman soldier is always bloody, so we created a massive hand carved marble Roman frieze with the game’s main character, Marius Titus, surrounded by a slew of gladiators, barbarians, and legionnaires in mortal combat. It looks like a stone sculpture, but portions of the battle scene actually drips “blood” into letters at the bottom of the frieze to spell out the name of the game. The letters are invisible until they begin to fill with the “blood.” The media was eager to use the installation as the backdrop for their interviews and coverage of Xbox One. This piece is an example of a work that is less digital and more hand crafted as we touched on earlier. Speaking of E3, there’s a looming console battle brewing. What’s your take, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, or none of the above?
 HOROWITZ: Which one has Tetris? No, but in all seriousness, it really depends on the game. I play all the different consoles — XBox has the Kinect, PS4 is free to use the Internet, so it really depends on what features you want. If you asked us what’s actually hooked up to my TV, I would say I have an Atari hooked up right now. BRAUNSTEIN: It almost seems there’s a bigger battle with PC gamers versus console gamers. Most people play MMOs on PC because they prefer using a mouse and the keyboard because you can use a lot more keystrokes and shortcuts, which is completely different than the traditional controllers. Personally, I’m pretty much console-based, largely in part because I don’t have time to play MMOs at 4 o’clock in the morning.