Visit Tour: EA Games Vancouver

(Guest post by Jade Greggory, DD40)

My name is Jade Greggory and I am part of the incredible DD40 class who had the pleasure of visiting Electronic Arts on Wednesday 16th January. EA is located in beautiful Burnaby and is the center for development of some of their largest gaming franchises, including FIFA, NHL, UFC, Plants vs Zombies and Need for Speed.

I am an avid gamer so this experience was truly unbelievable and pretty epic! Our journey started at VFS, where we met Ana Maria who kindly escorted us to their headquarters which involved taking the sky-train and a bus ride. As we arrived on location, we quickly noticed that this was not like your usual design studio…. in fact it was more like a university campus! As we walked up the steep hill that led us to their palace; the sweet smell of pine trees accompanied our promenade and we immediately felt in touch with British Columbia’s beautiful scenery. At last… we made it to the top and I joined my fellow classmates in the enormous lobby of Electronic Arts.

While we patiently waited for our gracious hosts to come meet us, we stared at our surroundings in absolute awe and disbelief and tried to absorb every bit of detail of their grand entrance! They had this large digital screen showcasing cool motion graphics which featured all of EA’s employees in a fun manner. We gathered as a group to receive our personalized EA name tags and we met Karam from DD33 who was accompanied by Brandon from DD35; both are Digital Design Alumni. They gave us a brief introduction of themselves; Karam is an Interactive Designer and Brandon a graphic designer who also does Motion design.

EA has several different wings within their studio including their Phase 1 FIFA building, Phase 2 FIFA Mobile/ NHL/ UFC/Plants vs Zombies and Phase 3 which consists of their Motion Capture Studio. (We weren’t able to visit Phase 3 as they had a special celebrity guest who was a star athlete but most of their Motion Designers are based in that building.) Our visit consisted of exploring the many different rooftop patios which display stunning panoramic views of Vancouver as well as EA’s outdoor sports facilities which are pretty epic! They feature their very own branded soccer pitch as well as a beach volleyball court which has sand imported all the way from San Diego! We all enjoyed a few laughs and giggles, as we played soccer together and we understood how important it is for the employees at EA to share comradery through their working culture, which offers them a close bond of trust and compassion.

Our group was then met by another fellow DD alumni, Julian from DD32, who is also an Interactive Designer at EA and he concluded our tour by showing us their astonishing indoor facilities; including their fitness centre which is accompanied by personal trainers, massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors. They also boast their own indoor basketball court which comes with a sauna, two theatres and several cafeterias or coffee bars.  The icing on top of the cake was being able to walk down the corridors which featured an accolade of bountiful honorary awards like BAFTAs and Emmys for their respective games.

Julian concluded our journey by taking us to a large meeting room where we were able to have an exclusive Q&A session with Karam, Brandon as well as two UX associates that are part of Julian’s team. They gave us a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the world of Electronic Arts and understand what it takes to work in this creative environment. Generally, employees are part of a smaller team which embodies a nice balance of Interactive, Motion and UX designers. They source out inspiration as a group and come up with innovative content which must be approved by their project director. Karam was telling us that sometimes they have to generate around 160 assets in a short 2-day period! (like our very own SLAM….but amplified!) Working hours are very flexible as it helps the employees enhance their work-life balance. Overall, EA is a wonderful place and took us down memory lane as if we were visiting Disneyland- our trip was so inspirational and motivated us to keep working very hard and reminded us all that we can achieve anything we set our minds to!

We concluded our epic adventure by having lunch at the EA cafeteria and for a short precious moment, we felt like we belonged to this incredible community of talented individuals.

A big thank you to Karam, Brandon, Julian, Ana Maria, Grigor and Chris for organizing this amazing studio visit!

Studio Visit to Microsoft Vancouver

(guest post by Ege Kurt, DD39) 

My name is Ege and I’m part of the DD39 class – the lucky ones to be the first Digital Design class from Vancouver Film School that gets to visit the Microsoft offices in Vancouver, BC!

On September 29th, we visited Microsoft Studios, located in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street. All of us were so excited and curious. Upon our arrival, we were immediately captivated because the place was fascinating, spacious, and big. The Head of Human Resources met us and gave us our visitors’ cards and welcomed us in.

First, she showed us around and gave us a brief tour of the office. We saw the Garage and the Park Room studios–the Garage is an open studio for everyone in Microsoft, with lots of tools and machines that you can work with such as the CNC machines and 3D printers, and the Park Room is full of PCs and is for training interns.

Microsoft accepts interns for UX and UI design, as well as an array of different developers. Around fifty young creative people get together in teams and design an app within the space of four months. If you want to be involved in this creative process, you can submit your application at www.carees.microsoft.com.Towards the end of our tour of the Microsoft office, we had a pleasantly surprising “meet & greet” with Henry Chu, an alumnus of the VFS Digital Design program. He has been working for Big Park Studio as a User Experience Designer for the last two years since graduating from VFS. Big Park Studio is one of the creative studios of Microsoft and they are working on designing apps for Windows, Kinect Games, and Xbox.

Henry gave us an introduction to the project they’ve been working on over the last year. He showed us the prototype and let us test the app which is called 3D Paint. This app was designed for Gen-Z users and it empowers them to create 3D models. The app is an example of user-centered design which makes it easy to use and export your 3D models. When you are done with your 3D model, the app gives the ability to test and show your model in the real world. Your prototypes are able to respond to your environment and are diplayed in a realistic setting. It also has another functionality: you can use the app as a 3D viewer which is an innovative concept that has never been done before. 3D Viewer is a great app for sharing and showing your prototype to instructors or stakeholders. It is a fantastic concept that works with every Microsoft and Android operating system.

We had some time to ask questions during our visit and receive exclusive feedback. Here are some of the key points we discussed:

Do you think this app is beneficial to our VFS Digital Design Graduate Project?

“Absolutely, it’s helpful and saves a lot of time and gives you the opportunity to use your prototype for your motion design assets.”

Do you only work with UX/UI designers or do you hire motion graphic designers as well?

“We work with motion graphic designers at Microsoft, as well as UX and UI designers. We already have three motion graphic designers and they are working on pre-visualization of prototypes since 3D prototypes can sometimes be expensive.”

What is the working experience like in a big company like Microsoft?

“First of all, no-one has their own office – we all work in open studios and transparency isn’t creepy! This makes people feel connected and helps us to communicate more. Most of us are from Vancouver and cultural communication still exists as we are part of one big family. At the same time, we all have different backgrounds and we always inspire each other! This is our biggest strength and we are all having so much fun. We start the day at 10am and the working hours are very flexible.”

What was your career path in Microsoft?

“For myself, I started working directly as UX designer and I found myself immersed in the creative process at Big Park Microsoft; most of us are tech artists and problem-solvers.”

What were your strengths before you were hired by Microsoft and do you have any suggestions for VFS Digital Design students?

“It’s all about networking! Meet on Linkedin, get to know more about companies that you want to work in the future. During your Appetizers Industry Night, ask the same questions that you asked today. I have to say that VFS is great for networking and is one of the best institutions around the world.”

This studio visit was an amazing experience and seeing Henry was very inspiring. This experience helped us truly understand the values of being a part of the VFS family. We owe Louise Lee, Head of Digital Design at VFS, a great debt of gratitude for arranging this studio visit, and to Pam Saunders, PR & Social Media Manager, and Henry Chu, Interaction Design, at Microsoft for hosting us. Thank you!”

DD Talks: Joey Camacho

Make the Work Meaningfulless

On September 20th, students and instructors of the VFS Digital Design program had the pleasure of listening to the engaging talk called “Make the Work Meaningfulless” by Joey Camacho, as part of the DD Talk speaker series. Otherwise known as Raw & Rendered, Joey is a freelance 3D motion and graphic designer based in Vancouver, Canada. He’s created conceptual and creative design work professionally for reputable global brands, as well as passionate local companies.

As part of his DD Talk, Joey shared about the steps to produce better results in your work and in your life. He took us on a journey through his own life, showing his beginnings as a graphic artist and emphasizing the key moments that made his career as a freelancer successful.

One of his key lessons was the power of the words we use – to ourselves and to others: “If you have a project in mind that you want to do, don’t say ‘I want to do this’. Instead, say ‘I will do this’ and set a time to start doing it – and then do it at the time you said you would.”He did this with his project “Progress Before Perfection”, a 365-day project using Cinema 4D where he created a render every day for a year in order to improve his craft and produce work more efficiently. Some days were easier than others, he shared, and what got him through was remembering his commitment to his craft and making sometimes choosing the hard option (completing the render for the day before joining his friends in the pool!).

Joey also showed us some of his freelance work for companies such as Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi, and BMW. His work is a clear example and proof that consistent practicing of your craft plus patience can be well-rewarded.

One of Joey’s most inspiring sentences was: “Design your life in such a way that you feel energized and excited about your work. Stop saying ‘I’m so Busy’!”

Thank you, Joey, for motivating us to achieve our dreams and to start now on working on them!

AGENCY VISIT : POUND & GRAIN

(guest post by Simon Smith, DD39)

Last Friday our VFS Digital Design class had the pleasure of visiting Pound & Grain, a digital creative agency located in Gastown, just a couple blocks away from our campus. After getting buzzed in, we proceeded to ascend up a steep flight of stairs and what was immediately noticeable was that the walls were covered with an endless array of cartoon creatures. This immediately set the tone as Pound & Grain is an agency that strikes a perfect balance between being a rigorous and challenging work environment while still maintaining an atmosphere of creative spontaneity.

 

 

After a tour of their office and a pleasantly surprising meet-and-greet with two friendly border collies, we were able to sit down with one of the Managing Partners, Sandy Fleischer, and find out more about what Pound & Grain is all about. Pound & Grain is a medium-sized creative agency that specializes in finding creative and refined digital solutions to business needs. Founded in 2010, they have offices in both Vancouver and Toronto. For a relatively new agency, they have already worked on projects with some of the biggest organizations in Canada, from Lululemon to Telus to the CFL in the past seven years, and Sandy and his team have built up quite an impressive portfolio.

According to Sandy, a lot of the company’s success comes from its employees that are highly adaptable and like to face new challenges head-on. Despite a relatively small number of employees, they are able to take on and succeed in big projects because while each team member may have his or her own specialty, they are also both able and willing to step out of their comfort zone to pick up the slack when necessary. Jane and Michelle, two designers who also joined us and helped Sandy field our questions added to this, saying that the work culture helps them get through creative block since if they are stuck on a project there is usually a totally different project that they can direct their attention towards to keep the creative juices flowing.

Overall, our trip to Pound & Grain gave us great perspective of what a professional design agency environment is like and now we have a much clearer idea of the bar we should set for each other as classmates so that we can all eventually be able to produce at a professional level and make an impact in the industry. Big thanks to Sandy, Jane and Michelle for being such gracious hosts and here’s to this relationship between VFS Digital Design and Pound & Grain inspiring a whole new generation of Digital Designers!

AGENCY VISIT : GIANT ANT

(guest post by Jack Clift, DD39)

 

 

One of the many things I’ve learned at VFS in the Digital Design program is that “Design is not done in a bubble”, it has to be experienced, shared and discussed with others. Part of the DD program is a sequence of studio visits in which we get to indulge and learn from the best in the industry. It is important for new designers to have experiences like this because it offers an inside look at industry work and what is expected of you there.

This week we had the pleasure of visiting Giant Ant. Giant Ant holds their own and is known for being the best in what they do. The studio is small in size but big in talent, hosting a team of gifted animators, artists, directors, and writers. Although Giant Ant is known for their phenomenal 2d motion projects, what I found most interesting was their inclusion of both traditional and 3d motion as well. They find a way to seamlessly blend the three types of motion in their projects to the point where they are indiscernible from one another. The team is a well-oiled machine that works in unison to create beautiful and creative storytelling through motion. It’s no surprise that they create projects in timelines as short as three weeks.

 

While visiting, we were able to talk to Jay Grandin – one of the founders of Giant Ant about what exactly makes it tick. He offered us insight into several different technical aspects of how things work at Giant Ant. What interested me the most, however, was the heart and soul of why they do what they do. They take on every project with the same passion as the last one because it’s always something that they want to do. They aren’t doing projects because of financial reasons, it’s because they believe in the project they’re given. One of the points Jay made that resonated with me was while they have to turn down a lot of projects, the ones they agree on are the ones they really believe in. A lot of factors come into consideration when choosing a project (do we use the product? can we be creative with it? is there a financial benefit?), but the first thing they always ask themselves is: Would our mothers be proud?

The family is important and that is exactly what Giant Ant is – they aren’t a team; they are a family. This is the heart and soul of Giant Ant, working together as a family, knowing each other’s strengths and using that as a method to reach their goal. With a family of animators, artists, directors and writers that put as much passion into each project as they put into their personal projects, it’s no surprise that they are credited as the best. I learned a lot from my short time at Giant Ant and if I were to distill it into one short lesson it would be this – hard-work and talent are what will push studios to the top, but it’s how you work together that keeps you there.

Thank you to Jay and the team at Giant Ant for hosting our visit to their studio!