Behind the Scenes in the Digital Production Industry


The Creative Director of Colorfield, Michael Gramlow, came to speak to us about the digital production industry and the importance of getting your work recognized in a rapidly changing environment. Colorfied’s clients are generally ad agencies in the U.S. (hence the reason why their name doesn’t have that oh-so-Canadian “u” in “colour”) even though they’re based in Toronto. Their creative work involves everything from web design, animation, development, production management, sound and design production, shooting, and tons more. Their clients include Chevy, Ford, Subaru, NBC, American Express, Google, Old Navy, amongst others. As designers, we don’t always have to work for agencies, there are other options out there, one of which is the fun (but highly work-intensive) world of digital production.


Michael has years of experience working for various agencies in North America. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens University, a certificate of Interactive/Multimedia Studies from UofT, and he even studied Landscape architecture in Japan. He now enjoys working in the production side of design where he directs live action shots, produces stellar websites, and does cool things in After Effects.


One of the things Michael emphasized was the trends in the web industry and the value of awards. One trend is that sites have become simpler in design, but more complex in development. For example, a growing trend is the single-paged site, but features like parallax scrolling and CSS3 animations make it a challenge to build. Designers and developers also have to make sites responsive for multiple devices, which means longer development times. As for our class, we’re in the early stages of learning about how to create responsive sites in our Typography class, and it’s no easy feat. My admiration for those who can make solid responsive sites has multiplied twenty-fold.

Michael moved on to talk about how fame is the currency of the advertising world. As a creative, winning awards and recognition is important, maybe not so much for clients, but for your career. Award-winning agencies attract award-winning creative talent, and if you’re lucky, clients follow; however, you must apply for awards in order to win them. Some companies even hire one person just to perform the task of applying for awards. The competition is definitely fierce.

colorfield's website

Colorfield’s website has some pretty quirky, sarcastic humour, which is pretty daring for a production agency.


Although you can find yourself in various odd jobs within web design, here are the four main industries that Michael touched on:

1. Client-Side – Working for a single brand.
2. Digital “Pure Play” Agencies – Mostly consist of large, big budget clients, and often follow what the lead agency is doing.
3. “Integrated” Ad Agencies – Work tends to be created and brand-oriented; works often with TV, Print, Radio; is a very good starting point for young designers.
4. Production Company (Colorfield) – Well versed in production techniques of the web, film, sound, animation, and more.

There will obviously be a lot of industry hopping going on in an average designer’s life. I wonder where I’ll end up.


The cutest case study Michael showed us was the Subaru Dog-Tested, Dog-Approved online campaign that coincided with the Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” (like the Super Bowl but with puppies). Since 75 per cent of Subaru’s owners own a dog, it’s only fitting that their campaign tailors to this specific segment of the market. The Facebook-based campaign includes an “Ask an Expert” live chat with–you guessed it–a dog! And not just any dog, a very cute and well behaved dog who types–or should I say “pounds”– on the keyboard.

Subaru Dog

Who can resist chatting with a face like that? Looks like a legit car expert to me.

There was also an opportunity for Facebook users to create their own driver’s license for their dog, in addition to a feature that matched your dog with a Subaru vehicle.

Subaru dog license

 If only getting a driver’s license was as easy as uploading your photo and…nevermind, that’s a terrible idea.

I’m glad that a car company like Subaru is stepping out of its comfort zone and getting in touch with their canine side.


Goodby, Silverstein & Partners  collaborated with Colorfield to redesign Chevorlet’s website for their best-selling vehicle, the Chevy Silverado. The challenge: to create the site using parallax scrolling. And parallax scroll they did!

long psd

Michael showed us his team’s never-ending psd files for their Chevy Silverado parallax scrolling site. It must’ve used A LOT of RAM! Yes, those thin vertical strips on the left are four versions of the psd file.

Colorfield’s hard work definitely paid off because the site is absolutely breathtaking, and it’s the kind of design that inspires me. Using over 1300 photos, various mood boards, wireframes, and what I assume would be blood, sweat, (tears?), and hard, hard work, the team created a dynamic, powerful and beautiful parallax scrolling site that captures the rugged essence of the vehicle.

Chevy Silverado

In addition to the parallax site, Colorfield also helped work on a desktop and mobile site for Chevy.

You can view the site in all its parallaxed glory HERE


• Less is more in your portfolio. Only show your best work. If that means only three, then show only three.
• Have a good story in regards to what you’re showing. Make sure you can describe why and how you did it, and the process you went through. Be passionate about your work. Talk about things you could’ve done differently.
• Make sure you can show your portfolio without internet connection!

Stay social! Connect with Michael on LinkedIn!



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