World IA Day

(guest post by Raji Keluskar and Michelle Kang)

World IA (Information Architecture) Day is an annual event that is held in over 50 cities in 29 countries and is held on the third Saturday of every February. The theme of the event this year was “Information Strategy and Structure,” and it was held at the VFS Digital Design campus in Vancouver. A number of students from the VFS Digital Design program volunteered to help out with the event and participating as student speakers. As students, we were looking forward to meeting the industry experts across different specialties, including the feature speakers such as Marianne Sweeny, Lorraine Chisholm, Melissa Breker, Hannah Wei, Robin Rozhon, Alan Etkin, and Karyn Zuidinga.

The Digital Design students who participated as speakers for the Lightning Talks were Gianna, Julian, Marly, Michelle, Raji, and Suzy. The Lightning Talks, a segment of the conference that features local community members who have managed to create synergy with unique and successful strategies in context of IA (Information Architecture) and UX (User Experience), was a chance for us to introduce ourselves to industry and talk about how, as students, we perceive IA. At first, we were nervous from the thought of having to talk about a subject that is still relatively new to us in front of an audience who we believed to be more knowledgeable about it. Thankfully, regardless of their status in the industry, the experts were curious to know the mindset of the upcoming talent. As we presented, we were glad to hear that they were more than happy to discover how each of us defined IA and our plans on catering to the users’ needs by integrating the practices of UX and IA.

Envisioning our futures in the field of interactive design and with Vancouver being the hub of it, World IA Day, with 107 attendees, was a great platform to start networking. We would like to thank the event organisers, Krispian Emert, Jessica Dill, and VFS Digital Design, for including us and giving us this rare opportunity to be part of such a great professional community. Thank you!

 

Studio Tour: Giant Ant

(guest post by Lizbeth Salazar, DD37)

On February 1st, my class DD37 and I, went to visit Giant Ant. We were really excited because most of us, leaning towards motion design, really wanted to visit a motion studio and the day finally arrived.

We walked together all the way to the studio, which is located at the end of Chinatown. Once we got there, I was not surprised about their office: I knew they were a small company and would have an office space to match. We went inside the studio and the first thing I saw was all the people immersed in their work, some using tablets, others on their computers with headphones on and others in the kitchen probably taking a short break. Whatever they were doing, they were really into it and they seemed happy.

We were directed to their conference room, and we were lucky to meet Jay Grandin, Partner and Creative Director of Giant Ant. Since we were a group of 18 people along with Jay, the room was crowded once we all sat down. He showed us some of their work and told us about how Giant Ant came to life.

We spent most of the time asking questions. The topics ranged from their process of design, the amount of time it takes them in creating their projects, and all the way to him telling us that he never planned on making motion design for living or even have a motion studio. He mentioned that most things happened in unusual ways and not in the way we have thought about them but if we are happy and we have an end goal, then we have to let whatever happens in the way flow and everything will work out in the end. And looking back at this point of his life, he is happy about where he stands and how things worked out.

By the end we asked him about tips or things we should think about if we really wanted to pursue motion design and he gave the following advice:

1. Create the storyboard as best as possible to avoid wasting time later in the process. The better it is, the less time you’ll put in it trying to refine it.

2. Throw as many ideas you and your team have, good and bad ideas. Combine them and if it works, you’ll have a really strong idea.

3. Forget about the money and learn. Do as much as you can. Do work you think has value and that way people will come to you.

Thanks, Giant Ant!

 

Studio Tour: DDB

(guest post by Marly Marquez, DD37)

After some days of sun, in early February, the first snowfall arrived in Vancouver and the visit of Class 37 to DDB was also held. On February 3th, the group met at 13:00 at the Digital Design campus to start their way to the studio. Between a snow storm and a snowball fight, we arrived to a beautiful building close to West Georgia Street.

After taking the elevator to the 16th floor, we reached a more comfortable atmosphere of creativity and design. Known as one of the best advertising companies in the world, the feeling of having arrived to a place where you would want to work in was felt by the whole group. Sara Caissie, the Account Supervisor at DDB, gave us a warm welcome and led us to a more pleasant place to talk about the company and answer our questions.

Stéphane, a Creative Director at DBB, joined Sara to discuss the company structure and share some of DDB’s projects. They introduced the different areas that exist in the company such as: Strategy planning & research, Traditional Advertisement, CRM (customer relation management), etc.

For DDB to continue to be one of the most recognized worldwide companies and at the same time be able to transmit the correct messages to the audience has been a challenge, but not impossible. They mentioned that in each project, they seek to create something unique as an experience for the users.

After a Q&A session, we started a tour around the floor where we saw the different workplace areas, brainstorming notes on the walls, card sorting, and other conceptual work. We also were able to enjoy the beautiful view that they have of the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza.

For their last motivational words, they told us to embrace criticism of our work to grow as designers and make our work better. For the future, they advised us to work as freelancers to build our industry profiles. DDB, like many companies, search for people with specific skills to work on projects. Also they invited us to send them our portfolios after finishing the DD program to see if they can offer us some internships.

All the 37’s want to give special thanks to Louise Lee for arranging the visit to DBB, to Danny Chan and Stephanie Wu for their patience and support and finally, but not least all, the staff of DBB for their advice and warm words.

 

OptimalSort

(guest post by Michelle Kang and Raji Keluskar)

Card sorting is an effective, easy-to-use method for understanding how people think about content and the way it’s categorized—it helps you organize information that is easy to find and understand. As students in the Information Architecture class, we were generously offered a free trial of the Optimal Workshop’s card sorting product called OptimalSort. As a class of seven, we used this as a part of our assignment to learn about the labelling systems by each of us making an open card sort consisting of 30 cards based on different topics and acting as participants for each other’s.

While we were using the online OptimalSort, we noticed how it is more user-friendly and flexible than the method of using physical Post-its. Having the ability to put together questions to screen participants was something we found very convenient. Although we did not need to use this tool in our assignment, it is a tool that we feel which distinguishes OptimalSort from the traditional Post-it card sorting. Being an online platform, it allowed the participants to take part at a time most convenient for them while the sort was open and the “unique study link” can be shared via email and other platforms to recruit more participants. Users may also choose to use the integrated participant recruitment which holds a recruitment panel of 10 million participants all over the world with 70+ languages.

OptimalSort not only helps users during the card sorting but also presents them with an accurate analysis report of all the sorts that you conduct assists in gaining clarity and the confidence to make informed decisions. Being able to have a see in the analysis of each card sort by individual participants, cards, and categories through the features such as the similarity matrix, dendrograms and participant-centered analysis helped our class gain a grip on the ambiguity of language in labelling and categorization. The option to exclude the information of the participants who decided to abandon the sort before finishing prevented the possible problem of having inaccurate data in the overall overview summary and analysis.

On behalf of our DD37 class, we would like to thank Optimal Workshop for allowing us to experience these highly functional features that top notch companies such as NASA, Google, Netflix, Autodesk, BBC, NatGeo and thousands more, use to enhance their products on daily basis. Thank you!

Q&A with Kelly Kurtz


Hello Kelly! First and foremost, congratulations on winning the Vega Digital Awards for your Grad Project “World Ski & Snowboard Festival Promo” and your title sequence project “188 Days”! Also, it is worth mentioning that your World Ski & Snowboard Festival Promo was recently published live and is actively promoting the event!

Tell us, what was your first reaction after hearing you have won?
I was pretty shocked – I received an email informing me the winners had been announced and to check out the winners’ gallery, so naturally I assumed I hadn’t won anything. I was excited to see the amazing work that had been submitted and then found my graduate project on the winners page! And right beside it was another piece I had created, a motion title sequence, which put me into double shock!

What do you think set your projects apart from the rest of the nominees?
I am not really sure!

Can you briefly summarize what your grad project is about?
It is an animated promo for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival held annually in Whistler, BC.

Why did you chose that as a topic?
I used to work in the ski industry full time for 12 years, so when it came to my graduate project I wanted to work on something that I am passionate about, something fun.

How did you come up and define your story line?
I chose the approach of “what do I want my audience to feel” when they view the piece approach. The answer was that I wanted them to feel excited about all the festival has to offer – skiing, snowboarding, nightlife, concerts and events.

When it came to choosing your art direction, what were the steps you took to define it?
Ski culture has always revered fluorescent colours, so when I mixed that idea with the après part of the festival a glow in the dark feel emerged. I defined the art direction in the previsualization stage of my project and refined it throughout production as each frame was drawn.

What is the most important step that you think cannot be skipped when you are in the pre-production stage?
For me music was locked in early, I find it a back and forth process when trying to previsualize a project. The sound doesn’t get enough credit yet it is half the impact to the viewer. When I hear different music I see different animations, the music has a huge impact on what visual elements will work or not work. I had a very clear picture of what the piece was going to look like from the beginning, and when I am working on a piece that I can’t see that I need to spend more time seeing it, otherwise it is wasted time later.

What were the challenges that you needed to overcome when creating your grad project?
My first logo animation that transitioned the rotating skier into the logo was very drippy looking, and didn’t fit the overall art direction. 3D rotating characters doing ski & snowboard tricks required a 3D rotating logo animation. I took the logo into Cinema 4D, twisted it up with deformers and created a small animation that was rendered out to use as a reference to then frame by frame over in Photoshop. The result was not only fitting the overall art direction of the piece but it ended up being a favourite scene for most viewers.

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