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!”

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!

 

10 things to love about DDB

(guest post by Joy Richu, DD38)

Charisse and Steve Presenting

Steve Presents Project

The VFS visit to DDB has got to be one of my main highlights from term three. Located just a fifteen minute walk away from the Digital Design campus, DDB stands as a world-class marketing agency with potential work opportunities for both motion and interactive designers! If that’s not enough to get you excited, here is a list of 10 other things to love about DDB!

1. Wide reach
DDB engages in integrated digital marketing and strategy. This improves their ability to reach large audiences across various platforms, enabling increased user engagement!
2. Results
Similar to VFS, results matter to DDB. They are keen on ensuring the best results for each of their clients, and most recently began sharing video documentation of their process and outcome for various client projects!
3. Variety
DDB has about 65 people doing much of the work for a given project, with 20-30 different clients at any given time. That’s a large portfolio.
4. Creativity
With an orientation towards storytelling and emotion, DDB campaigns are innovative and impactful, finding new ways to appeal to their audiences.
5. Research
A large part of the company’s success comes from their focus on strategy and research. They focus and go deep. This knowledge and understanding of their audience prior to creation ensures the right messaging and marketing solution for each client.
6. Long standing history
DDB was founded in 1986. Nevertheless, their presence in the marketing world dates way before that! Do you remember the iconic Volkswagen commercial, “Think Small”? That was DDB.
7. Worldwide Offices
With over 200 offices in 95 countries, breadth of experience is not something that is lacking for DDB.
8. Fantastic company culture
Teams in the Vancouver office are organized in pods. This allows for ease of connectivity and communication! Did I also mention that they have hot dog days?
9. Collaboration
As with all art creation, collaboration is key at DDB, and they do so across fields.
10. Use of atomic design
With regard to their Interactive department, DDB makes use of the atomic approach to design, which ensures consistent, high quality UI, as well as efficient workflow!

Find out more about Canada’s DDB here: https://www.ddb.ca/en/

DDB Cooridor

DDB Mantra

DD38 at DDB

 

Visit to Hootsuite

(guest post by Bella Du, DD38)

DD38 Group Shot Hootsuite

As part of an Industry IQ lesson, our DD38 class recently had the opportunity to visit the office of a world–renowned social media platform, Hootsuite. We have heard so many cool things about Hootsuite, and last Wednesday, we finally had the chance to meet them.

Hoot Life - Bootcamp Style

Hoot Life - Outdoor Space

Upon arrival, Husna Shalkh from the HR team welcomed and walked us to the greeting area where the space is spiced up with a mural painting of a giant owl. From the moment we walked in, we saw murals everywhere; some of them were even created by their talented employees. During the tour, we luckily stumbled onto their Show and Tell session held on every Wednesday where staff from the UI, Product, and Development team gather together to share and discuss ideas and project updates. Like this session, they mentioned that Hootsuite likes to keep thing open to encourage free communication between employees. As we were walking, we could barely find a wall or boundary that separated each team. Each employee is mobile on a laptop, so that they don’t have to be confined to one particular working spot. You may catch them taking a break in the “Cabin” fitted with cots, or working while eating in a common area on rows of picnic tables, or just like us, found one team having meeting in a tent – literally, a real tent.

Hootsuite Boardroom Meeting

During the second half of the tour, we were directed into a meeting room where we met Jon Maltby, Senior Creative Director, and Mark Stokoe, Art Director of Hootsuite for a Q&A session. They started off introducing themselves and talking a bit about their careers, and explaining their roles at Hootsuite. Both of them came to Hootsuite for more opportunities and a greater sense of ownership compared with their past experiences working in agencies. Jon and Mark found that working for Hootsuite has enabled more self-satisfaction in the way that they feel ownership of what they are doing and being part of the environment. They create their own briefs by really knowing the company well and thinking about the long term big picture. Later Jon shared with us one of their company values as knowledge sharing; they encourage employees to discover new sets of skills and to strengthen their roles. They also hold Lightning Talks, a series of 5 minute presentations from employees to express their interests or journeys, which promote engagement and friendship outside of the normal work routine. Finally, the Q&A session finished by Mark explaining their UX/UI design process, which often involves collaborations with the Product and Marketing team. The team tests everything when it comes to UX/UI design. They often utilize heat maps to conduct user testing on design variations and they also substantially rely on Sketch to prototype.

DD38 Group Shot Mural

The time spent at Hootsuite was fast but it was an exceptional opportunity for the class to experience how the work life in such a big tech company can look like. The tour was definitely informative and inspiring. We had a great insight into the company, learnt something related to what we are learning at VFS, and most importantly, left us with a motivation to keep challenging ourselves and with a more clear vision for our future careers.

Lastly, a big thank you to Louise Lee for organizing this tour, and Stephanie Wu and Jamie Moon for accompanying us. And, thanks Hootsuite again for having us.