(guest post by Mihaela Kandeva, DD36)

On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the DD36’s made their way to the office of one of the more well-known historical advertising and digital design agencies in the business, DDB. Once on the 16th floor of a typical business district building near West Georgia St, we were slightly overwhelmed to be greeted at the front desk by a very professional receptionist, who offered us a seat at their lounge area while we waited.

As we began to talk in hushed voices, afraid to disrupt the atmosphere, we were lead up a staircase covered in vibrant graffiti. Any first impressions we had begun to formulate went straight out the wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows: What a view overlooking downtown! The entire open floor plan was an amalgamation of meeting spaces, several bright kitchenettes, and modular computer desk areas, all done in minimalist fashion with a clean white and grey palette. Even the magnetic whiteboards covered in printouts and erasable marker somehow looked organized.

Doyle Dane Bernbach, also known as DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc, is mainly a marketing and advertising agency, but they have two subsidiaries: Tribal, the digital arm, and Karacters, their brand identity shop. Despite having over 150 worldwide locations (4 in Canada), the Vancouver location of about 65 employees somehow manages to keep a very comfortable, non-corporate vibe.

They’ve created some innovative campaigns for many major companies, including Netflix, McDonald’s, and locals like BCLC, BCAA, and Destination Canada. We had the privilege to see case studies behind three more recent projects, two for Adidas, the other for Canadian Dairy. The true value of this visit really came from the insights into their process and how they manage to leverage existing platforms in intriguing ways.

We were told they hold two things in the highest regard: creativity and humanity. Usually those are words which most companies list as obligatory values, but DDB actually lives them. Half the desks at the office sat empty, people being encouraged to go out and work together at coffee shops, parks, anywhere they can be inspired for a couple hours. Hardly anyone was head down at their desk. Those meeting spaces all around us were occupied by people collaborating. We started noticing things like the ping pong table being used to brainstorm on, the kitchenette counters stocked with endless Tazo Teas and Starbucks Coffee. Surely, the Stella Artois fountain and unlimited ice cream supply must get the creative juices flowing.

Our trip to DDB left us feeling like kids who’d just come from a brand new shiny toy and candy store all wrapped up in one, literally leaving with ice cream bars in hand, smiles on our faces, enjoying the sun on the journey back to VFS.

This could not have been possible without Louise Lee organizing the tour, Danny Chan, our fearless leader, and Jamie Moon, our accomplice. Many thank yous to Charisse, HR Director, Stéphane, Associate Creative Director, and Gabriel, Sr Designer, for showing us around and for the free ice cream.



(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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Our visit to Tribal DDB

(guest post by Jay Lee)

DDB is one of the most successful and award-winning international agencies. Digital Design Class 33 had the pleasure of visiting DDB Vancouver to catch a glimpse of their creative process. Upon entering the office, the walls proudly displayed framed work they have produced for various brands. We were escorted to the lounge, where we were greeted by Antonio Roman and Gabriel Santiago, Digital Design alumni who are now interactive designers at the agency, and Josh Fehr, the creative director of Tribal DDB.

After brief introductions, we were presented with some of their recent projects with EVO, Volkswagen, and Metropolis. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session where Josh and Antonio emphasized the importance of ‘share value’ in the digital era and original ideas that deliver tangible results. They led us on a tour around the office, where we experienced their creative process first-hand. The walls were covered with moodboards and style guides, which we have become very familiar with in our school curriculum. The team members were discussing ideas in a meeting with champagne in hand, which we learned is a fun Friday afternoon ritual at the office.

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Grad Nabs 2011 Young Blood Interactive Win!

Antonio Alarcon Roman never fails to amaze us. He wowed us when he was a student in Foundation and dazzled in the Digital Design program. Since graduation, he made Design Edge Canada’s list of the Top 10 Notable Designers under the Age of 35 and is currently creating award winning work at Tribal DDB Vancouver. Oh, and did we mention he designed Oomph?!

With so many awards on his trophy shelf, what’s his latest accomplishment? No less than being featured in the current Applied Arts Magazine (November/December issue) as the 2011 Young Blood Interactive Winner! This is a tremendous achievement as the Young Blood Interactive competition is one of the most prestigious forms of recognition for a young designer in our industry.

We caught up with Antonio right after his big win…

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