INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: AXIOM ZEN

(guest post by Crystal Wong, DD36)

Today, our DD36 class had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Vancouver’s very own, Axiom Zen. A lot of us went in knowing it was an interaction and product-based studio, but didn’t really know much about the company or what kind of work they do. Amy, their UX designer, was very pleasant and welcomed us to the studio and was very eager to show us some of their current projects. We were instantly intrigued by one of the staff’s dog sitting at the front desk… Oh, and we got some free swag as well!

Axiom Zen define themselves as a venture studio. But what does that really mean? It pretty much means they do a bit of everything and they’re always open to new ideas and new technology. They consider themselves a start-up, although the company as grown significantly in size since they first started. Despite the growth, the “start-up mentality” still remains within the company in a sense that there isn’t a real hierarchy, but everyone is able to tap in and out of different projects and help out depending on their interests and what they specialize in.

The office is tucked underground and holds a few different companies under the AZ hub. Amy showed us different areas of the office, each area was typically project-specific such as the ZenHub, Routific, Hammer & Tusk, and more. Routific, for example, is one of their many on-going projects. It was initially a personal project of one of the staff members where they created a website dedicated to route optimization, which AZ later decided to invest in and has now become its own logistic software company under the AZ network within the same office space. This goes to show how open the company is and they take on a wide range of projects.

It was great to hear the staff talk about their positions and how they got to AZ. Everyone spoke in passion about their roles and really emphasized on the element of collaboration at AZ which struck as a pleasant surprise. Although the level of responsibilities are demanding and many projects are juggled at a single time, we could tell the staff loved every bit of it and is what makes Axiom Zen unique to other studios.

Thank you to Louise Lee for organizing the visit, and Danny Chan and Jamie Moon for accompanying us. A special thanks to Amy and Axiom Zen for hosting us! Looking forward to our next studio visit!

 

Sequential Design

 (guest post by Sean Wright, DD35)

This past Wednesday (June 1st), the 35th Digital Design class had the distinct pleasure of visiting the work space of The Sequence Group, a premier design, visual effects and animation team that happens to be located here in Vancouver.

Guided as always by the vigilant Danny Chan and stoic Grigor Cheitanov, we paired off using the buddy system and departed the halls of higher learning at 420 Homer St. for a brief trek through historic Gastown. You can tell that Sequence have their fingers on the pulse of the city by their choice of location: Railtown. East of Main St. and north of Alexander St., this former industrial area is Vancouver’s next hot target for gentrification and redevelopment, and this studio has literally settled in at the ground floor.The Sequence Group got their start 10 years ago as a private venture by founder Ian Kirby: designing websites, DVD interfaces, motion comics and animated gifs for whomever needed the business. Since then, it has grown to a 15-person team (exact numbers vary by project, swelling to up to 50 strong for large jobs such as last year’s Halo: The Fall of Reach) that is proud to include two VFS DD grads.Upon our arrival the studio was operating under at least one non-disclosure agreement involving projects for the upcoming E3 Convention (video game Christmas) taking place in Los Angeles later this month, so our tour was swift and to the point. We were introduced to the team in their converted industrial space complete with three storey ceilings and rolling windowed doors facing onto a waterfront courtyard, but then quickly whisked away to the cinema room for a thorough demonstration of the team’s completed projects guided by Executive Producer Dan Sioui. Thank you, Sequence Group, for having us!

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INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: TRIBAL DDB

(guest post by J-P Crowe, DD35)

We were finally going to meet DDB! And I had many burning questions deep in my soul. Did you make the interactive Christmas tree for Canadian Tire? What are the salmon facts? And what the heck is going on with Translink?

But there were serious questions as well. One of my close family friends has done public relations for oil companies and tobacco companies, trying to defend people with a bad rap. How do you do that? What is it like in this day and age, when your corner candy shop selling fair trade Camino chocolates has become the neighbourhood McDonalds selling McWraps, and every guy has got to survive?

When we sat down, they were eager to elaborate on the Our Food, Your Questions campaign they did for McDonald’s where they promise to answer any question you have about their food. We also learned about their work for BC Hydro encouraging the public to curb their energy consumption in order to meet the needs of a growing population.

Their physical space is incredibly impressive. With few separating walls, it’s mostly an expanse of desks and computer screens with people dressed in chic business casual clothes. Surrounding this space are windows from ceiling to floor gazing upon the surrounding grey apartment buildings in every direction. Maybe it’s the futurist in me that can’t help but think about each mind behind each window in each of those buildings that designers try to understand and reach. As we headed back down the graffiti stairwell I was reminded that this digital agency is business on the outside and human on the inside.

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INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: NOISE DIGITAL

(guest post by Victor Platon, DD34)

The final Industry IQ studio visit for Digital Design class 34 arrived on a rainy afternoon in February. With umbrellas in hand, we headed south towards Yaletown and over to Noise Digital marketing agency. Once we arrived, we made our way upstairs where we were greeted by Creative Director Brian Krenzer. He quickly showed us their spacious office area, and brought us to the very back where the designers, writers and producers work in an open concept work space. Brian tells us that this format allows everyone to collaborate and work together more effectively. We saw many interesting paintings hung up along with an eclectic mix of design-inspired decorations. They also have a mini photo studio that allows them to do in-house photo sessions for smaller scale projects (complete with green screen). We were then escorted to their boardroom where we sat facing a very large flat panel display. Here Brian introduced us to Jessica Liew (Copywriter) and Clayton Whelan (Visual Designer).

The three of them proceeded to show us samples of Noise’s previous work portfolio, an impressive list of clients ranging from Sony Playstation, BCLC, Sugar Crisp cereal to Sapporo beer. Throughout the presentation the trio would explain the process and design decisions that occurred behind the scenes. They encouraged us to ask questions about their techniques, and were very generous with sharing the ups and downs they faced with every project. It was encouraging to realize that a large and established design agency like Noise faced some of the very same challenges we experience as design students. They highly suggested that we pay close attention to who our target audience is and to ensure that we speak to them in ways that are clear and concise. They also showed us their love for using data as a driving force for their design decisions. They look to data to provide insight, and to measure success. They believe that without the ability to objectively measure your project for results, you cannot gauge how well you solved the initial design solution.

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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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