360i's VP-Innovation Technology Layne Harris and Senior Innovation Strategist Fitz Maro don't have the "proper" titles for report like this. Yet they're the founders of 360i's Innovation Lab, where the shop develops the technology that has enabled some of its most impressive ideas.
"I think we're creative; we're just not creatives," said Mr. Maro.
Semantics aside, the two were instrumental in realizing campaigns such as the "Canon Photo Coach," which featured digital billboards that gave real-time, contextual tips to passersby so they could take the perfect picture, and another for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, "Adaptoys," which used technology to tweak traditional toys so that those with paralysis could play familiar games with their families. The ideas were conceived by Creative Directors Corel Theuma and James Rogala, and Mssrs. Harris and Maro came in to make the seemingly impossible a reality.
In the case of Photo Coach, for example, it was all about figuring out how to leverage data in order to remind photographers near the Brooklyn Bridge to get their cameras ready because the "magic hour" was coming in a few hours, or offer tips on how to capture events that were happening that night at Madison Square Garden. For Adaptoys, it was about applying the Innovation Lab's learnings in various digital interfaces to something concrete.
"In general, our approach is almost the opposite of the creative process," said Mr. Harris. "We don't have a brief that we're working against. We're explorers. We take stuff, hack it, explore it, so that we can learn everything there is to know about the technology and when folks walk in with their ideas, we've already done the work."
Before joining 360i, Mr. Harris studied design but started his career on the client side at companies including Microsoft. A move to NYC more than 10 years ago gave him an opportunity to re-focus on his creative pursuits. In 2011, he joined 360i as a technical director based on his experience creating Facebook games. He then took it upon himself to be "that guy" who figured out how to make complex digital ideas work. Mr. Maro re-routed from pursuing a business degree to study at VCU Brandcenter. He joined 360i as an associate strategist in 2013, following a similar role at Goodby.
Outside of experimentation, Mssrs. Harris and Maro are also on board to inform about possibilities in tech. "I recently did a presentation to a big brand about Bitcoin," said Mr. Maro. "It runs the gammut from client side to creating internal excitement."
"Our main mantra is that we are generous," said Mr. Harris. "We are generous with our time and listening to people's ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. The more generous you are, it creates an atmosphere of doing great work."