Visiting the Giant Ant

Digital Design's 25th class on their way to Giant Ant

In the third term of the Digital Design program students are taken on “field trips” — visits to a few choice local agencies and creative producers — to get some exposure to creative talent recruiters and to provide them with an inside look at the workings, creative processes, and hiring practices of the Vancouver Design industry (and for the benefit of some very valuable advice). Digital Design’s 25th class went out on such a visit recently to Giant Ant.

Giant Ant Logo written in chalk on a black board

Giant Ant is located in Vancouver’s Chinatown, right nearby historic Gastown. It is a small but very creative studio that focuses on video production, with an emphasis on unique storytelling — producing content for digital platforms and television. They are a close-knit group with an organic relationship to their business growth and a collaborative approach to their creative development (involving each of their team members in the creation of their solutions). According to Partner + Co-Creative Director, Jay Grandin, each person works as both a specific talent while being enough of a generalist to be able to contribute in a variety of ways. As it happens, there are some VFS grads working there too (Jorge Canedo EstradaNicholas Ferreira, Shawn Hight)!

Jay Grandin says that their hiring process happens “like magic” — usually, they call in somebody with a specific skill set to help with an aspect of a project, and they find that, after working with them a few times, they are a natural fit to their culture. It becomes evident that they are able to bring something to the table creatively and to help with the studio’s growth, so they are invited to join the team. And sometimes they are just greeted by a timely recommendation, a serendipitous phone call from, or chance meeting with, someone who just happens to be on the same wave length and who has the skill and talent for doing what they were considering to start doing themselves.

Giant Ant is a small but cool and cozy space

One such chance meeting worked out so that they have their own musician who composes and produces all the music for their videos (as opposed to spending the time seeking out music that will fit a number of different styles and approaches). That sounds like a pretty amazing job!

The Giant Ant team were very generous with their time and gave the students good insight into their creative process, including valuable lessons in client and time management.

Giant Ant’s three basic rules:

  1. Don’t miss deadlines.
  2. Don’t be a Dick!
  3. Love the work.

Students get great advice from Giant Ant creatives

On the subject of how to keep their approaches fresh, Giant Ant has a some interesting ideas. For example, they have what is called “the seven-second project” — where everyone is encouraged to make whatever kind of piece they like, seven-seconds long, and to be as irreverent or absurd as they like, just to shake up their sense of the usual. There was also the “cabin” retreat, which resulted in them redesigning their meeting room with panelling, a wooden table, and other features to give it the feel of a wooden cabin. They have a very informal approach, which they believe is essential for fluid and honest creativity. No big egos allowed!

Giant Ant are committed enough to the philosophies of their clients that they avoid taking on any new clients who would obviously controvert that philosophy. They have a range of clients that include a number of non-profits, which they say they really enjoy working with. This is certainly apparent when you look at some of the great work they have done. Take for instance, their recent involvement in the To This Day project, which lines up with Pink Shirt Day this February 27th. The project-call resulted in 20-second contributions from many animators and motion designers (including VFS grads like Digital Design’s Dominik Grecj), strung seamlessly together to produce this amazing video put to a moving poem by Shane Koyczan.

This studio has a good sense of humour, a family-like culture, and a commitment to doing original and effective work. For a look at the range of work they do, check out their reel, which covers a year of creative solutions between the summer of 2011 – the summer 2012.

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