Canadian Digital Agency Rival Schools Has Fun Being Creative for Clients

Don’t let the name Rival Schools fool you: their studio in Vancouver is not a classroom with chalkboards and desks, but rather an environment that fosters creativity—action figures, cartoon posters and a ping pong table all work together as inspirational ornaments.

The fun-loving digital agency formed in 2007 and has done work for big name companies such as McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and Nike. Rival Schools began as a service agency, doing projects primarily for clients, both as a mean for survival and a method to gain an education in a constantly changing field. What they know now is that although they want to continue attracting talent and building their portfolio with paying clients, they also want to leverage their skills and create personal projects.

“Diversity and flexibility is challenging and fun,” says Roy Husada, Rival Schools’ cofounder and creative director. “Just doing straight client work can burn you out.”

Bramble Berry Tales, an interactive storybook app is Rival Schools’ newest project conceived from their playground-like studio. The first book in the series titled “The Story of Kalkalilh” written by Marilyn Thomas teaches lessons and sparks imagination as the reader follows Lily and Thomas as they explore the colourful and musical land of Kalkalilh.

“It’s based off of indigenous people,” said Husada. “It comes from the Squamish tribe’s folklore that have been passed down from generations to generations. It has never been officially documented in any mainstream way. But as you know indigenous languages and culture are in a decline.”  

The second book entitled “The Great Sasquatch” will be released in October and the third book “The Little People” will be available for download in December 2013. Rival Schools is taking the opportunity to help capture and reinvigorate stories that are essentially the roots of Canada.

Rival Schools value their method of selecting projects. They take pride in working from idea to result, whether it is their own special undertaking like Bramble Berry Tales or a project for a large corporation. The most important factor for Rival Schools is communication.

“A lot of shops say they can do everything,” explains Husada, “that is how we like to label ourselves. We can do everything, but our biggest strength is our ability to combine our craft of user experience and user interface with content. We take concepts from the beginning to the end.”

Innovative curiosity is what keeps Rival Schools going. Entertainment, consumer goods, software and technology are the products, but the real goal is establishing a relationship and working as a team with companies that have the same mindset.

“Clients that aren’t good fit are those who tell us what to build, but not why they want us to build it,” said Husada. “What are they trying to achieve? The analogy is like going to the doctor and telling the doctor what you want. You don’t tell them what you want. You don’t tell them you need a cast—you tell them what is wrong first and they will tell you what you actually need.”

Husada added, “We always tell our clients that we can adapt to a style based on their goals. We don’t have a style. We are not always clean and neat or funky and edgy. It really depends, but what we do is that we look at the end user and we use all our ability to understand the process and empathy to figure what it is that appeals to them and be delightful.”