Visit Tour: Giant Ant Studio

(Guest post by Matt Stulberg, DD40)

Recently, our class had the opportunity to visit Giant Ant, a Vancouver-based creative studio specializing in animation and motion graphics. With a client list featuring big names like Google, Facebook, and Disney, and a reel filled to the brim with jaw-dropping visuals, Giant Ant has a well-earned reputation for being the best of the best at what they do. Admirably, they hand-pick the clients they work with in order to always be involved with companies who want to change the world for the better. In taking this approach while producing impeccable visual work, they have managed to create for themselves a rewarding work-life, and have taken home a wide array of accolades and awards in the process. As young Motion and Interactive designers many of us are new to the industry, so we were all incredibly grateful to find out that Giant Ant would be opening their doors to give us a behind-the-scenes look at who they are and what they do.

After a long walk through Chinatown on a rainy afternoon, we abruptly arrived at Giant Ant, hidden away on a quiet street between an Oyster Bar and a vegetable stand. Walking into their cozy workspace, we were greeted by a small community of designers quietly working away in front of iMacs and Cintiqs. As our visit progressed it became more and more apparent to me what a fitting moniker “Giant Ant” is, as it’s quite impressive how a small studio of fewer than 20 people can produce work that feels so immense.

Once we had not-so-stealthily strained to get a quick glimpse of what they were working on, we headed into the conference room where Jay Grandin (Founder & Creative Director), Conor Whelan (Designer & Animator), and Angel Chen (Studio Manager) were kind enough to give us a look into their world. After explaining to us a little bit about their mission and vision, we had the privilege of viewing an exclusive showcase of their projects, both completed and in-progress. I was completely captivated by the stunning visuals, as Giant Ant has a distinctive art style that seamlessly blends various mediums, particularly beautifully stylized illustrations with 3D worlds and environments. However, I was just as impressed with the insight Jay and Conor gave us into the inner-workings of their creative process from start to finish. Being presently involved in our ‘Big Idea’ project ourselves (where we work in teams to create deliverables for a real-life client) it really put things in perspective to hear that they rapidly create these beautiful works in timelines sometimes as short as a few weeks.

Beyond the benefits of getting a peek into the inner-workings of their creative process, I was also very impressed with the quality of storytelling and creative direction found in Giant Ant‘s work. Jay and Conor showed us a piece they had recently completed and were quite proud of titled “Finding Out You Have Cancer”, an animation intended for children and made for the Imaginary Friend Society. Despite an undeniably difficult subject matter, they succeeded in creating a piece with both substance and style, managing to hit all the right notes and for all the right reasons. Ultimately, it was really inspiring to be in the presence of a group of people working hard, taking pride in what they do, and doing it all for causes they believe in.

Before we left, Jay and Conor were kind enough to stay and let us pick their brains, answering our questions in detail until we completely ran out of things to ask about. It was a great experience, and as we said our goodbyes and headed back out into the rain, there was no doubt that we were all inspired… and excited to get back to work!

On behalf of the entire DD40 class, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Giant Ant for taking the time out of their day to give us a tour of their home.

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!

 

Visit to Giant Ant studio

(guest post by Stuart Parker, DD38)

We arrived at Giant Ant around 2pm on a sunny Friday afternoon. The studio was tucked away into Chinatown, just off Keefer Street. We waited outside for one of the studio heads to be ready for our visit. From the outside, the studio’s open plan and simple design gave it a welcoming and approachable feel.

Jay Grandin, one of the founders of the studio, invited us inside to begin the visit. We were led to a meeting room where we all gathered around a long table with a screen to see a demonstration of all of the work the studio was involved in.

We began our visit by watching a demo reel of Giant Ant’s work from 2015. This was a great way to begin as Giant Ant is known as one of the best in Vancouver so it was exciting to see what they had made before. Their work not only impressed me but also intimidated me slightly. It showed their quality of work and it was absolutely incredible. I aim to be able to produce their standard as soon as I can.

Jay then proceeded to go through later projects that Giant Ant was involved in, as their reel was from 2015. These included a series of projects that they had been doing with a Florida-based sunglasses company that was focused on the conservation of our waterways. All of the artwork, direction and design were mind blowing in these 3 projects. Every follow up to each project improved in so many ways, as well as trying new techniques and styles to evolve their way of approaching things.

While Jay brought us through all of Giant Ant’s work, he was also answering any questions we had about the studio or about the life of a designer. He brought us through how he and his wife created the studio; he started off life designing furniture. It was interesting to see how far he had come from that. He talked about how he and his wife had to make sacrifices when running the studio. A couple of times they were forced to just pay their staff and leave nothing for themselves. This told me they were both really passionate about what they do and that it paid off for them in the long run.

The studio was beautiful, the work they produced matched and the whole work environment seemed more like a family than an actual studio. The thing that resonated with me the most though was when Jay was explaining how they chose what work the studio would take and what they would leave. He said “We ask ourselves: would our moms be proud? Would we use this product? Is it a financial opportunity? And can we be creative with it?” I think this sums up the perfect way to approach work as a designer, both ethically and logically.

I took a lot away from visiting Giant Ant. It has given me a standard to aim for when doing my graduate project, but also has given me a good message to live by when choosing work later on in life.

 

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!

 

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: GIANT ANT

(guest 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.