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.

 

INDUSTRY IQ DD35 STUDIO TOUR: Giant Ant

(guest post by Dylan Endicott, DD35)

The Digital Design 35th class at VFS was given the opportunity to get an inside look at everything Giant Ant. When Louise Lee, the heart that pumps blood through the DD program, told our class that we would get to visit Giant Ant, there was an eruption of enthusiastic proportions. There is a reputation that Giant Ant holds as one of top-notch studios in the motion graphics industry.
Our impression of them only improved after our visit. Seeing and learning a bit about their process really solidified for us the fact the money doesn’t drive this studio — It’s passion. Collectively, the class now knows that big things truly do come in small packages. What Jay and Leah have built in such a competitive industry is not only impressive but incredibly inspiring. Jay led the class on an adventure through Giant Ant’s files and process, which, to some, may not sound like fun, but our class could have stayed all day.

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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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