Late last year, Jony Ive stirred up perennial debates surrounding the failings of contemporary design education to turn out students ready to take up gainful employment. Speaking at an event at London's Design Museum, Ive used the word 'tragic' to describe the many (presumedly Western) design schools' inability to teach students how to make physical products and relying too heavily on "cheap" computers.
If current models of industrial design education have indeed been floundering, perhaps educators should be looking at developments in education in designs newer fields (though, I guess we could probably draw some correlation between the rise of one and the fall of the other...but let's leave that for another day). Founded in Sweden, Hyper Island has been carrying the torch for the progressive creative education in recent years, with diversely experienced students educated in teams at the deep-end of live projects with big clients, taught by practitioners at the cutting edge.
Perhaps testament to the model's success (and quite unusually for a higher education establishment) Hyper Island has been expanding like wild-fire with satellites already popping up in the likes of NYC, Singapore and Sao Paolo. In 2012 the school opened up its most recent hub in the happening Northern Quarter of Manchester, England. Just over two years on, the school is now set to launch a Masters degree dedicated to Experience Design in a bid to further shake up design education and meet the needs of an increasing disgruntled industry.
With the course currently accepting applications for its inaugural intake later this year, we caught up with the guardian of the course and Scottish service design mover and shaker Program Manager Lauren Currie to hear more about her vision for design education.
Sam Dunne: So Lauren, how did you get involved with Hyper Island?
Lauren Currie: I was first invited to teach at Hyper Island in Stockholm in 2011. I ran Service Design workshops for the Interactive Art Director program and instantly fell in love with the school, their values and the graduates they produce. I was delighted to be invited back to Stockholm for the next three years and as a result Snook, the service design agency I co-founded, went on to invite six graduates to intern with us. In 2014, we were invited to deliver a module for their Manchester school. Over this time, we have hired several Hyper Island graduates. Sarah and I were blown away by their work ethic and skill set. Now I am the Program Leader for a new Masters in Digital Experience Design here in Manchester and I'm working with industry to mold the content we'll deliver to our new cohort of students.
Tell us a little bit about the MA Digital Experience Design? What is it? How is it structured?
This MA has been designed in response to a demand from industry.There is big gap between what schools teach and what designers need to know to design products, services and systems in the real world. All our courses are co-designed with industry experts and this one is no exception.
Design is in flux. Where its practitioners were once expected to produce chairs, lamps, logos and letterheads, today their work is often less visible. Increasingly, design is concerned with interactions and experiences—it's about systems, services and the human condition. This is the focus of this course.
We worked with agencies such as Us Two, Dare, Doberman and IDEO to co-design the content. The first 24 weeks are delivered in our Manchester school. These weeks are full-time, intense and jam-packed with content. The next phase is an industry-based work project; this lasts 18 weeks and can be carried out anywhere in the world. All our content is facilitated by industry experts and we will work on live client briefs from agencies such as Google and GreenPeace.
What's really going to set this course apart from other courses?
There are basically 10 key ingredients that make this course pretty special...have a read.
What are current students saying about Hyper Island?
We are looking for applicants with a bachelors degree or the equivalent work experience. Current applicants are coming from a diverse range of fields such as advertising, model making and music but all have a common focus of design. At Hyper Island, it's about attitude, potential and a desire to learn. We accept a wide range of people from all over the world with a vast range of talents, skills and experiences.
How relevant might this course be to someone with an industrial design background?
This course has a strong focus on human-centered design. Industrial design experience would be an ideal background for prospective students.
How do we apply?
You can apply online by submitting your details and documents. All applicants are then reviewed and if selected, invited to an interview with me. If you have any questions or would like to chat about the program in more detail, please email me on lauren.currie[at]Hyperisland.com
Sam Dunne is a designer, strategist and writer based in London. Sam is founder of design strategy agency Cohere and Contributing Editor at Core77—reporting broadly on design, technology, food and object culture.