INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: Giant Ant

(guest post by Kelly Kurtz, DD34)

Our second studio visit that was part of our Industry IQ course in the Digital Design program at VFS started with the most interesting question — How would you accidentally create an inspiring, industry standard raising, and successful company? Say what?! We, the DD class of 34, listened intently as Jay Grandin, Giant Ant Partner & Creative Director, described the story of how the studio was born.

Some 10+ years ago after graduating from an industrial design program, Jay Grandin and Leah Nelson (Wife, Giant Ant Partner and Creative Director) took out a camera on the weekends and created a video for fun. At that time, YouTube was just beginning to become popular. They posted it and it went unexpectedly viral. Companies started contacting them to make videos for them; they had so much interest that they both decided to quit their jobs for a year and try it full time. “We didn’t make any money in the first few years. It wasn’t until about 5 or 6 years in I was finally making $30,000/year, which by today’s standards (especially in Vancouver) is below the poverty line.”

The company continued to grow and they developed a sense of what type of work they wanted to put out there, and what type of work they didn’t want to take on despite the appealing money that could have come in, inspired us with their ethical choices. Many of us hope our work will be used for the greater cause, and we want to work on meaningful projects. Visiting Giant Ant showed us that companies with high standards exist and that in the end you choose what work you take on and choose what type of work you want to produce. Hearing their philosophy was empowering for us as students who are starting to develop our own sense of ethics and direction.

We had an opportunity to ask many questions that gave us insight into their company culture, what they are looking for in potential employees/talent, tips on getting into the industry. He let us in on their company rules, which are simple and to the point, which guide how they interact with each other to achieve the high quality of work they produce. Another real highlight was to see inside their workflow of award-winning motion pieces like Stickboy that was created to be shown at the Vancouver Opera in 2014. Seeing what it takes behind the scenes was inspiring and daunting at the same time, and left us wanting to see more and more!


It was enlightening and comforting knowing that the curriculum at the VFS Digital Design program is not only relevant in terms of the type of work that is out there in the industry, but the invaluable experience of meeting people, seeing inside of workplaces, and developing a sense of where the industry standard is. Three of the DD grads currently work at Giant Ant, which gave us hope and inspiration that one day we could work here too. Jay also spoke about the ebb and flows of trends in Motion Design, and that his sense is that there is another trend shift lurking around the corner within the next year. He doesn’t yet know where that trend will shift to, but right now we are sitting on the edge.

This experience was absolutely invaluable, Giant Ant was so welcoming and especially given their busy schedules. Jay and Leah are recently new parents caring for twin 9 month olds on top of owning Giant Ant – yes, that sounds insane and impossible but of course they are doing it, they are Giant Ant! We wanted to give a large heartfelt thank you for taking us in and giving us insights that will help formulate sources of inspiration, direction and motivation. Thank you for showing us what is possible if you take a chance, are guided by your ethics, work ridiculously hard with an OCD attention to detail, treat everyone with respect and accept others ideas it makes the project stronger.

Also a large thank you to Head of Department Louise Lee for arranging the studio tour, and Danny Chan & Grigor Cheitanov for accompanying us.

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