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!

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Industry IQ STUDIO TOUR: AXIOM ZEN

(guest post by Ana María Posada, DD34)

With rain on our backs we eagerly entered the underground building of Axiom Zen. Amy, a UX designer, welcomed us with a friendly smile. Axiom Zen is a Vancouver-based innovation company that develops apps and experiments with new technologies working with industry giants like Apple, Google, Baidu, and Facebook.

The first thing that struck me was the stillness in the office and the people who work there in an atmosphere of calm and concentration. I stood in awe watching employees working in front of their screens, some standing, some sitting, typing lines of code. They were so immersed in their work that few noticed our sizable presence.

We joined Amy in an open-spaced corner of the studio and sat down on Molo-designed seating for a brief introduction about the studio. She explained to us the dynamics of the work environment, their creative process and the types of projects that have been developed in the studio. Later, Amy was accompanied by Brian, Dieter and Nick to explain more about Axiom Zen and to answer all of our keen questions.

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Van UE Design Awards Gala

(guest post by Jordan Barber)

I’ve heard it said that designers should be loved, not understood. I can’t say if that’s true, but I’ll wholeheartedly admit we’re a strange breed. We obsess over form, font, color, and composition. Some of us communicate ideas through storytelling, and others spend countless hours unraveling complex systems to build better experiences.

When I entered my undergraduate design program, a professor told me that I would never see the world the same again—later another instructor called it a curse. I never knew how true these statements were until I entered the world of user experience design. In the Digital Design program at VFS we learned the tools to transform our obsessions into a problem-solving skillset by letting the problem dictate the solution; not the other way around.

For our graduate projects, we drew inspiration from our lives and the world around us. We learned to observe, hypothesize, validate, and examine our ideas while always keeping the user at the center of our designs.

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Our visit to Habanero

(guest post by Karam Mahmood)

As design students, we value the time we can meet and be inspired by industry professionals. Vancouver Film School provided us the opportunity to visit an industry leader of user experience and interactive design. This was an opportunity to get hear stories and get advice from the interactive team of Habanero.

Studio visits are a part of our Industry IQ course, and it was great to see VFS alumni during our tours of Motion and Interactive Design studios. At Habanero, we were warmly welcomed by Bradley Smith, a Senior Interactive Designer, who can trace his roots from the first intake of the Digital Design program. Accompanying him were Christopher Parsons, Senior Front End Developer aka “The Coding Wizard”, Zak Woytowich, Interactive Designer and a Digital Design alumnus, and Senior Interactive Designer Kurtis Beard.

After we had all settled down, we were given insight into the process of a how a project develops from the initial client meetings to the final delivery. It was great to see how well the VFS Digital Design curriculum is devised to cater to the industry standards as we followed similar steps. Habanero has very strong views in building authentic relationships with clients. Getting to see inspiring projects that they worked on gave us a really positive vibe from them towards their clients in building a long-term relationship.

We took a tour of their office and got to see the rest of the team, all fully focused and involved in their tasks. We also learned about Habanero’s approach in occasionally shuffling seating arrangements so employees can collaborate and be inspired working with different minds.

Thanks to Louise Lee for arranging our visit, and many thanks to Habanero for hosting us!

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Our visit to Tribal DDB

(guest post by Jay Lee)

DDB is one of the most successful and award-winning international agencies. Digital Design Class 33 had the pleasure of visiting DDB Vancouver to catch a glimpse of their creative process. Upon entering the office, the walls proudly displayed framed work they have produced for various brands. We were escorted to the lounge, where we were greeted by Antonio Roman and Gabriel Santiago, Digital Design alumni who are now interactive designers at the agency, and Josh Fehr, the creative director of Tribal DDB.

After brief introductions, we were presented with some of their recent projects with EVO, Volkswagen, and Metropolis. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session where Josh and Antonio emphasized the importance of ‘share value’ in the digital era and original ideas that deliver tangible results. They led us on a tour around the office, where we experienced their creative process first-hand. The walls were covered with moodboards and style guides, which we have become very familiar with in our school curriculum. The team members were discussing ideas in a meeting with champagne in hand, which we learned is a fun Friday afternoon ritual at the office.

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