Visit Tour: EA Games Vancouver

(Guest post by Jade Greggory, DD40)

My name is Jade Greggory and I am part of the incredible DD40 class who had the pleasure of visiting Electronic Arts on Wednesday 16th January. EA is located in beautiful Burnaby and is the center for development of some of their largest gaming franchises, including FIFA, NHL, UFC, Plants vs Zombies and Need for Speed.

I am an avid gamer so this experience was truly unbelievable and pretty epic! Our journey started at VFS, where we met Ana Maria who kindly escorted us to their headquarters which involved taking the sky-train and a bus ride. As we arrived on location, we quickly noticed that this was not like your usual design studio…. in fact it was more like a university campus! As we walked up the steep hill that led us to their palace; the sweet smell of pine trees accompanied our promenade and we immediately felt in touch with British Columbia’s beautiful scenery. At last… we made it to the top and I joined my fellow classmates in the enormous lobby of Electronic Arts.

While we patiently waited for our gracious hosts to come meet us, we stared at our surroundings in absolute awe and disbelief and tried to absorb every bit of detail of their grand entrance! They had this large digital screen showcasing cool motion graphics which featured all of EA’s employees in a fun manner. We gathered as a group to receive our personalized EA name tags and we met Karam from DD33 who was accompanied by Brandon from DD35; both are Digital Design Alumni. They gave us a brief introduction of themselves; Karam is an Interactive Designer and Brandon a graphic designer who also does Motion design.

EA has several different wings within their studio including their Phase 1 FIFA building, Phase 2 FIFA Mobile/ NHL/ UFC/Plants vs Zombies and Phase 3 which consists of their Motion Capture Studio. (We weren’t able to visit Phase 3 as they had a special celebrity guest who was a star athlete but most of their Motion Designers are based in that building.) Our visit consisted of exploring the many different rooftop patios which display stunning panoramic views of Vancouver as well as EA’s outdoor sports facilities which are pretty epic! They feature their very own branded soccer pitch as well as a beach volleyball court which has sand imported all the way from San Diego! We all enjoyed a few laughs and giggles, as we played soccer together and we understood how important it is for the employees at EA to share comradery through their working culture, which offers them a close bond of trust and compassion.

Our group was then met by another fellow DD alumni, Julian from DD32, who is also an Interactive Designer at EA and he concluded our tour by showing us their astonishing indoor facilities; including their fitness centre which is accompanied by personal trainers, massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors. They also boast their own indoor basketball court which comes with a sauna, two theatres and several cafeterias or coffee bars.  The icing on top of the cake was being able to walk down the corridors which featured an accolade of bountiful honorary awards like BAFTAs and Emmys for their respective games.

Julian concluded our journey by taking us to a large meeting room where we were able to have an exclusive Q&A session with Karam, Brandon as well as two UX associates that are part of Julian’s team. They gave us a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the world of Electronic Arts and understand what it takes to work in this creative environment. Generally, employees are part of a smaller team which embodies a nice balance of Interactive, Motion and UX designers. They source out inspiration as a group and come up with innovative content which must be approved by their project director. Karam was telling us that sometimes they have to generate around 160 assets in a short 2-day period! (like our very own SLAM….but amplified!) Working hours are very flexible as it helps the employees enhance their work-life balance. Overall, EA is a wonderful place and took us down memory lane as if we were visiting Disneyland- our trip was so inspirational and motivated us to keep working very hard and reminded us all that we can achieve anything we set our minds to!

We concluded our epic adventure by having lunch at the EA cafeteria and for a short precious moment, we felt like we belonged to this incredible community of talented individuals.

A big thank you to Karam, Brandon, Julian, Ana Maria, Grigor and Chris for organizing this amazing studio visit!

Studio Visit to Microsoft Vancouver

(guest post by Ege Kurt, DD39) 

My name is Ege and I’m part of the DD39 class – the lucky ones to be the first Digital Design class from Vancouver Film School that gets to visit the Microsoft offices in Vancouver, BC!

On September 29th, we visited Microsoft Studios, located in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street. All of us were so excited and curious. Upon our arrival, we were immediately captivated because the place was fascinating, spacious, and big. The Head of Human Resources met us and gave us our visitors’ cards and welcomed us in.

First, she showed us around and gave us a brief tour of the office. We saw the Garage and the Park Room studios–the Garage is an open studio for everyone in Microsoft, with lots of tools and machines that you can work with such as the CNC machines and 3D printers, and the Park Room is full of PCs and is for training interns.

Microsoft accepts interns for UX and UI design, as well as an array of different developers. Around fifty young creative people get together in teams and design an app within the space of four months. If you want to be involved in this creative process, you can submit your application at www.carees.microsoft.com.Towards the end of our tour of the Microsoft office, we had a pleasantly surprising “meet & greet” with Henry Chu, an alumnus of the VFS Digital Design program. He has been working for Big Park Studio as a User Experience Designer for the last two years since graduating from VFS. Big Park Studio is one of the creative studios of Microsoft and they are working on designing apps for Windows, Kinect Games, and Xbox.

Henry gave us an introduction to the project they’ve been working on over the last year. He showed us the prototype and let us test the app which is called 3D Paint. This app was designed for Gen-Z users and it empowers them to create 3D models. The app is an example of user-centered design which makes it easy to use and export your 3D models. When you are done with your 3D model, the app gives the ability to test and show your model in the real world. Your prototypes are able to respond to your environment and are diplayed in a realistic setting. It also has another functionality: you can use the app as a 3D viewer which is an innovative concept that has never been done before. 3D Viewer is a great app for sharing and showing your prototype to instructors or stakeholders. It is a fantastic concept that works with every Microsoft and Android operating system.

We had some time to ask questions during our visit and receive exclusive feedback. Here are some of the key points we discussed:

Do you think this app is beneficial to our VFS Digital Design Graduate Project?

“Absolutely, it’s helpful and saves a lot of time and gives you the opportunity to use your prototype for your motion design assets.”

Do you only work with UX/UI designers or do you hire motion graphic designers as well?

“We work with motion graphic designers at Microsoft, as well as UX and UI designers. We already have three motion graphic designers and they are working on pre-visualization of prototypes since 3D prototypes can sometimes be expensive.”

What is the working experience like in a big company like Microsoft?

“First of all, no-one has their own office – we all work in open studios and transparency isn’t creepy! This makes people feel connected and helps us to communicate more. Most of us are from Vancouver and cultural communication still exists as we are part of one big family. At the same time, we all have different backgrounds and we always inspire each other! This is our biggest strength and we are all having so much fun. We start the day at 10am and the working hours are very flexible.”

What was your career path in Microsoft?

“For myself, I started working directly as UX designer and I found myself immersed in the creative process at Big Park Microsoft; most of us are tech artists and problem-solvers.”

What were your strengths before you were hired by Microsoft and do you have any suggestions for VFS Digital Design students?

“It’s all about networking! Meet on Linkedin, get to know more about companies that you want to work in the future. During your Appetizers Industry Night, ask the same questions that you asked today. I have to say that VFS is great for networking and is one of the best institutions around the world.”

This studio visit was an amazing experience and seeing Henry was very inspiring. This experience helped us truly understand the values of being a part of the VFS family. We owe Louise Lee, Head of Digital Design at VFS, a great debt of gratitude for arranging this studio visit, and to Pam Saunders, PR & Social Media Manager, and Henry Chu, Interaction Design, at Microsoft for hosting us. Thank you!”