Gusto NYC & Gavin Alaoen on Making Art, Keeping the Internet Weird

Up-and-coming NYC artists Gavin and Gusto NYC
Up-and-coming NYC artists Gavin and Gusto NYC
What do you get when you take two MTV creatives and let them collaborate on personal projects? Magic, apparently. Gusto NYC and Gavin Alaoen may work as designers for the entertainment giant by day, but they don’t turn their creativity off when the clock strikes 5 o’clock. From viral comedic projects like Mckayla is Not Impressed and to their own creative take on history in their latest project Histagrams, these guys are taking the internet by storm using photography, design, and a shared sense of humor. Earlier this week, creativeLIVE had a chance to ask these two visionaries about their inspiration and what it’s like to be artists in the frantic streets of the Big Apple.

Many of us grew up watching MTV, viewing it not just a music resource, but a place where artists could share their creativity with the world like never before. How did you end up working there — and what’s it like?

Gusto NYC and Gavin Alaoen's Histagram's Project
Gusto NYC and Gavin Alaoen’s Histagram’s Project

Gavin: I had moved to NY from LA a few years back and bounced from company to company as a freelancer. Eventually I saw a posting for MTV and applied, and the rest was history! Working at MTV is great. There are the standard just day to day projects, but being able to collaborate with more creative minded people like Gusto, on the more engaging projects, is def a great experience.

What are the pros and cons of being an artist in an extremely competitive city like NYC?

Gus: I’d say the pros are the competitive environment really makes you want to learn different types of media (I taught myself photography, video editing, motion graphics, etc) in order to stand out. The cons? With so many people in NYC, it’s tough to make yourself stand out in the crowd.

Gav: I think some of the cons would be having to set yourself apart from other creatives, and branding yourself in a way that stands out and makes you unique. By doing so, it can create career or networking opportunities in fields that inspire you the most. The pros though is that you’re able to meet a vast range of creatives. Learning what they’ve been through and just being able to share advice is valuable in this day in age.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?

Gus: Keep notes of your ideas, on your phone or in a book, and pursue them during your free time. Any of those ideas could evolve into something bigger and get the attention of potential employers/investors.

Gav: From a designer standpoint, my advice would be to learn as much as you can, and have a variety of skillets. I think these days, the more you know the better, in that you’ll be able to apply your creativity to different platforms.

Your creativity spills over into your personal work. In a competitive world where we all work too much, what’s the value of personal work?

Gus: Its very important, it’s the only time I can be my own boss and dictate everything from start to finish with no outside involvement. It really helps me exercise my creativity, sense of humor, and design chops.

Gav: I feel the value of personal work is that you’re able to explore concepts that might not typically be suited for day job work. But from there you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t and then apply it to your day job projects or any other future projects down the line.

Most recently, you guys have worked on a project called Histagrams that is taking social media by storm. Can you explain a little bit about that project? What’s the motivation behind that one?

Gus: It’s crazy the amount if attention it got in such a short time. I was on the train a little over a week ago scrolling through Instagram and just imagined what kind of pics would have been posted a couple of years ago before it existed. Then I thought what about 10 years, 20, and even further back… that’s when it clicked, this is gonna be fun. I try to create random sites based on ideas every few weeks, some have gone ‘viral’, some haven’t, so I jotted down some possible names and texted Gavin right away: “I have another idea we should do, talk to you in the office.” As soon as I got to my office, I bought the domain, knocked out the logo and designed the site all in about an hour, so by the time Gavin got in I was able to walk him through the idea. Ever since then, we’ve been knocking out a few posts a day, trying to get as much historical detail into a post with very little copy while keeping it humorous.

What inspires your work in general and what inspires you to create these projects?

Gus: I’m a fan of people creating great original content everyday, so I just try to do my part to help keep the internet fun.

Gav: What inspires me to create these type of project is seeing the engagement, and people’s reactions, both positive and negative. It’s interesting to see people interact with your content and share, or even add on to what you’ve created.

  • Gusto and Gavin's Things Seen on The Subway Project
  • Gusto and Gavin's Things Seen on The Subway Project
  • Gusto and Gavin's Things Seen on The Subway Project

When you are thinking of your projects, do you ever think “this could go viral?” And does that factor in to your decision at all?

Gus: It’s not a huge factor but it’s always in the back of my mind… It’s nice reassurance when someone else sees my work and decides it’s worth their time to share it.

Gav: For me, I try to focus on the concept and from there, get it to a spot where I think its solid. Part of the “could this go viral” factor is just putting the work out there, and seeing what the reaction is. Sometimes thing catch on, and sometimes they don’t.

Where can we find out more about your work?

Gus: I create a lot of one-off random content that I put on my personal tumblr:, and my more polished ‘grown-up’ work can be found at:

Gav: You can check out more of my work at

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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.