How to curate your own creative workshop

Dave Johnston and Alex Donne-Johnson

Dave Johnston and Alex Donne-Johnson during their Hyper Island workshop

Hyper Island teaches design differently. Based in Sweden, it brings in industry experts and professionals to host workshops and lectures, meaning everything that goes on there is industry taught and led.

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Alex Donne-Johnson and Dave Johnston were the latest to come aboard, teaching motion design to a small group over a three-week period.

How did your involvement with Hyper Island come about?

Dave Johnston: I thought it would be good to get involved with students' work, so I contacted Anna Felicia Valdes from Hyper Island last spring. She asked me to host a three-week course in storytelling at their swedish campuses, Karlskrona and Stockholm.

She suggested I ask someone who directs motion design and animation to help with the course, and Alex Donne-Johnson from Dazzle ship was my first thought. Storytelling is something Alex and I have plenty of experience in through our own portfolios.

Did you have any teaching experience prior to this?

Alex Donne-Johnson: I'd done a number of public speaking gigs at universities and conferences, but nothing on this scale. Would I recommend it? 100 per cent! I think it's almost our duty as creatives to help the younger generation. Along the way I actually learned quite a lot from the students, and had fun too.

How does the Hyper Island teaching environment differ to others?

DJ: The education style at Hyper island is unique. They only use industry professionals to host workshops and lectures. Everything taught is up to date and industry led. It's a great way to give the students insight into the agencies and sectors they could end up working in.

There's also a huge focus on teams. Hyper island takes influence from the author Susan Wheelen and her theories on Group Dynamics, specifically the book 'Creating Effective Teams'.

What was the most challenging part of the whole experience?

DJ: Probably designing a three-week course. It's one thing giving a talk, but we had to take this a step further and give the students a creative brief they would work on for three weeks, and also curate a number of other guest speakers for the course.

We were thrilled to invite Steve Simmonds from We Are Seventeen, Robin McNicholas and Barney Steel from Marshmallow Laser Feast and also Ole Goethe, a professor from Hedmark University College.

What did you learn from the experience?

ADJ: Hyper Island has a very open approach to learning, so at first it was challenging – there were no real guidelines or parameters. They brought us on board as 'industry leaders' and installed a great deal of trust with very little direction.

At first this was daunting, but it actually became incredibly liberating. It forced us to look at education from another perspective and create something we felt the students could benefit from, based on our industry experience.

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This article was originally featured in Computer Arts issue 235.

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Sammy Maine

Sammy Maine was a founding member of the Creative Bloq team way back in the early 2010s, working as a Commissioning Editor. Her interests cover graphic design in music and film, illustration and animation. Since departing, Sammy has written for The Guardian, VICE, The Independent & Metro, and currently co-edits the quarterly music journal Gold Flake Paint.