Studio Tour: Axiom Zen

(guess post by Julian Liao, DD37)

The DD37 class recently had the chance to visit the Vancouver based venture studio, Axiom Zen. Having heard many great things from past DD students, we were all very excited to witness first-hand the kind of work that they did.

On the day of the tour, we eagerly made our way underground to Axiom Zen’s main lobby as we waited in anticipation for the studio tour to begin. It was surreal to watch the surrounding techies in their natural habitat. They sat with their backs harmoniously infused with the ergonomic contours of their Herman Miller office chairs, tapping away on their Apple keyboards, fully entranced in their work. Their eyes were carefully peeled before their screens, as they stared curiously, pondering what I could only imagine were highly evolved and interdisciplinary problems… or perhaps the age-old question of what was for lunch, a problem of proportional scale and importance that continues to plague all of humanity.

As the studio tour began, the class was greeted by Axiom’s UX/UI designers, Geordie and Mariana, who spoke to us at length about their workplace culture, and their roles as designers for the venture studio. The concept of the venture studio was very fascinating, as they are a self-described “startup for startups”. The organizational structure of Axiom remains relatively flat which helps to promote a highly collaborative and entrepreneurial environment. Everyone is free to take on projects as they see fit, and select work that suits or interests them.

As an incubator for startups and newly fledged digital products, Axiom Zen has accumulated quite a diverse array of brands under their portfolio. The office floor was separated into different pods for each product team. We had the opportunity to visit Toby, Routific, ZenHub, and Hammer & Tusk. In each case, we were able to learn about the histories of each project and how the teams were able to take these products from inception to their current stages of development. Toby, for instance, is a project that’s still very much in its nascent stage, and began simply as a passion project among some of Axiom’s developers who saw the need for a more powerful tool to help manage their browser tabs. It was inspiring to hear stories about entrepreneurs and creators who were empowered to create solutions for real-life problems that they experienced. Finally, we capped off our studio tour by testing out some cool VR gadgets with Hammer & Tusk. We got to learn about some of the challenges designers and technologists faced in creating impactful experiences for these new and emerging user platforms.

Our day at Axiom Zen was a unique opportunity for the class to learn about the structure of a tech-based studio. The most impressionable aspect of our visit was definitely the blend of entrepreneurial spirit and passion behind everyone who worked there. It truly felt like an environment where fresh ideas came to grow and thrive. It is with little doubt that many of these projects would one day go on to shape the next wave of successful digital products and services.

A big thank you to Axiom Zen for having us!

 

Vancouver User Experience Awards 2016

(guest post by Ziwei Wang)

The third annual event Vancouver UX Awards was hosted by Vancouver User Experience Group on Wednesday, Nov 16th at Imperial. Professionals in the industry and students joined together, excited to see what projects the talents would bring to the table this time.

After amazing food and drinks, the gala kicked off with a presentation from Kharis O’Connell, the Head of Product at ARCHIAT, UX for the Future. He talked about his experience in designing for mixed reality, and dived into the difference between prototyping for 3d space to the known approaches of designing for 2d interfaces. While there are pages of results when people google prototyping tools, there are not many answers for prototyping for Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality; how current designers tackle this problem is through theatre acting and paper prototyping. Successful UX designers will combine this emerging model with a new type of development mentality.

(photo credits: VanUE and photographer Jef Gibbons)

The awards highlight outstanding work across several categories: Enterprise, Marketing, Non-for-profit, Products, Students, Emerging Experiences, People’s Choice, and Best UX. All solutions were evaluated and scored by the judges on how they satisfied these five criteria: Joy, Elegance, Clarity, Innovation, and Impact. Throughout the night, the panel of judges shared their insights into great user experiences. User experience isn’t just about designing a great interface: It digs deeper into researching users’ needs and defining the right problems. Winners of this year emphasized the Vancouver lifestyle and demonstrated the ability to focus on user problems, from Burnkit’s interactive touch-screen solution that created an educational and fun experience for visitors at The Port of Vancouver Discovery Centre, to student online platform IKEA STAY that gives IKEA customers the chance to test products through an immersive Airbnb stay and web experience.

The event was excellent, well-organized, encouraged young talents to join the industry. It’s great to see the importance of UX has been fully embraced in Vancouver, I look forward to attend more events like this.

 

NOVEMBER 2016 DD SLAM Winners

Last week, we held a 45-hour Digital Design SLAM. These fun and intense collaborative design challenges take place three times per year. They provide opportunities for students to test their design skills and to build their networks as teams are formed from all three intakes. Slams also allow students to potentially gain another portfolio piece in a short time frame. Deliverables include both motion and interactive design elements. Here are the winning teams that captured the prizes for the People’s Choice and the Critics’ Choice categories, respectively. Congratulations to the winning teams!

People’s Choice winners:

Team Gift Receipts (from left: Pablo, Rajeshwari, Tais, Crystal, Mateus)

Critics’ Choice winners:

Team Turkey Stuffing (from left: Denita, James, Amar, Nizami, Marly)

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: GIANT ANT

(guess post by James Mulligan, DD36)

On a Sunny afternoon, September 29th our class, the DD36s, left school to go on an industry visit to the renowned Giant Ant studio. We walked excitedly through the streets of historic Chinatown until we eventually came to their building, a storefront off the beaten path.

As you enter the nondescript front, you enter a small hive buzzing with activity. The world we entered was warm and inviting. It was well-lit and the hardwood surfaces were polished. Staff were busy at their Macintosh workstations. We were welcomed by Jay who had a friendly casual demeanor and we didn’t realize until he told us that he is the co-founder and partner of Giant Ant. He ushered us into what looked like a glass-fronted log cabin nested into the larger room. Once inside, Jay showed us some of their projects and spoke about their creative processes including the inspiration and direction that went into each piece.

As he showed us some of their recent work, some themes emerged. Giant Ant uses positive framing, and they incorporate aesthetic beauty. They have a unique and original way of framing their subject matter; this allows them to prioritize creativity over following trends. Giant Ant has earned its reputation among clients, and this keeps the phones ringing. Many of their clients are from Silicon Valley and they have to turn many down. Giant Ant is a self-described family of animators and creatives who pick and choose their work, they are happy with the size of their team and feel no need to expand.

“Everything we put into the world is a statement of our taste,” Jay told us. He and his wife got into this business by making videos on YouTube originally. They showed us one of their charming originals. Seeing their skill level develop in earlier work was inspirational for the motionographers in our class.

As we left the building, I think we shared a general impression that Giant Ant is what a successful business can look like. They can be choosy with their clients, the workplace subs in as a family, and they get to use their creative skills. It gave our class something to aspire to.

 

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: TRIBAL DDB

(guest post by Mihaela Kandeva, DD36)

On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the DD36’s made their way to the office of one of the more well-known historical advertising and digital design agencies in the business, DDB. Once on the 16th floor of a typical business district building near West Georgia St, we were slightly overwhelmed to be greeted at the front desk by a very professional receptionist, who offered us a seat at their lounge area while we waited.

As we began to talk in hushed voices, afraid to disrupt the atmosphere, we were lead up a staircase covered in vibrant graffiti. Any first impressions we had begun to formulate went straight out the wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows: What a view overlooking downtown! The entire open floor plan was an amalgamation of meeting spaces, several bright kitchenettes, and modular computer desk areas, all done in minimalist fashion with a clean white and grey palette. Even the magnetic whiteboards covered in printouts and erasable marker somehow looked organized.

Doyle Dane Bernbach, also known as DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc, is mainly a marketing and advertising agency, but they have two subsidiaries: Tribal, the digital arm, and Karacters, their brand identity shop. Despite having over 150 worldwide locations (4 in Canada), the Vancouver location of about 65 employees somehow manages to keep a very comfortable, non-corporate vibe.

They’ve created some innovative campaigns for many major companies, including Netflix, McDonald’s, and locals like BCLC, BCAA, and Destination Canada. We had the privilege to see case studies behind three more recent projects, two for Adidas, the other for Canadian Dairy. The true value of this visit really came from the insights into their process and how they manage to leverage existing platforms in intriguing ways.

We were told they hold two things in the highest regard: creativity and humanity. Usually those are words which most companies list as obligatory values, but DDB actually lives them. Half the desks at the office sat empty, people being encouraged to go out and work together at coffee shops, parks, anywhere they can be inspired for a couple hours. Hardly anyone was head down at their desk. Those meeting spaces all around us were occupied by people collaborating. We started noticing things like the ping pong table being used to brainstorm on, the kitchenette counters stocked with endless Tazo Teas and Starbucks Coffee. Surely, the Stella Artois fountain and unlimited ice cream supply must get the creative juices flowing.

Our trip to DDB left us feeling like kids who’d just come from a brand new shiny toy and candy store all wrapped up in one, literally leaving with ice cream bars in hand, smiles on our faces, enjoying the sun on the journey back to VFS.

This could not have been possible without Louise Lee organizing the tour, Danny Chan, our fearless leader, and Jamie Moon, our accomplice. Many thank yous to Charisse, HR Director, Stéphane, Associate Creative Director, and Gabriel, Sr Designer, for showing us around and for the free ice cream.