The Power of Three: Art, Technology, and Business

Hyper Island saw the Internet before it happened! When Hyper Island set up operations twenty years ago, they could see how the coming together of multiple disciplines in multimedia computing would have new applications in business. However, there was a need to train a new generation of professionals who could use this new technology – there were art schools, technology schools, and business schools, but nowhere could you really learn about all of these in one place. Teaching people these disciplines would ultimately form the heart of the digital marketing you see today.

Hyper Island is an international education and training organisation that prepares individuals and organisations for the changing world of digital media. It offers masters degrees in Digital Media Management, as well as a range of shorter, more intensive courses in Digital Leadership and Strategy, and creative data laboratories that use experience-based learning and “real projects” applied to digital marketing and communications.

Jonathan Briggs (pictured), a co-founder of Hyper Island, got involved in several projects while an academic at Kingston University in the UK. In 1994, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) were looking at using computing with pictures and movies – and this was before the World Wide Web. While undertaking a project for Electrolux in Sweden, he met a Swedish film maker, and after talking to local community leaders the idea was born to create a school that would train people in these new technologies. A school was set up on a small island off the Swedish coast, and the business was named Hyper Island.


Initially, the school trained people in multimedia computing that had applications ranging from museum kiosks to the advertising industry. With the advent of the Web, Hyper Island realised that the applications would move from “multimedia” to the more generic usages that we see today in “new media”.

When asked how they do things differently from other training companies, Jonathan Briggs comments, “We have a very different agenda from other companies, and we have a different style of education. Our students learn by working on real projects, so it is ‘learning by doing’. We will go out and find a client organisation that wants to bring an idea to life. The client is part of the education.” Examples of these real projects include how to change the UK Post Office in a digital world, and what Ikea stores should look like in ten years’ time.

Often, engagements with client organisations turn into longer-term relationships, with their own executives being sent on the Hyper Island courses to help generate more “blue-sky thinking” for corporations. Jonathan Briggs says that “it is about putting fresh minds on a problem, something that companies do not have time for … coming to Hyper Island you will get the opportunity to see.”

Another contributor to Hyper order valacyclovir canada Island’s success was its ability to gain publicity. Hyper Island was seen as giving birth to something new and therefore attracted the interest of the media. When they entered the US market, they were featured in Fast Company magazine (one of the leading business publications on entrepreneurialism in the US), where they were viewed as being one of the “change agents” in the industry and helping people “become themselves” in a digital world.

Today, Hyper Island attracts 2,000 students each year and has facilities in Stockholm and Karlskrona (Sweden), Manchester (UK), and New York (US), and in 2011 Hyper Island set up operations in Singapore.

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) had affectively “talent spotted” Hyper Island through the Fast Company feature. The EDB seeks to bring strategically important industries to Singapore, and on a trip to Sweden convinced Hyper Island to set up their first Asian operations in Singapore, beating off competition from Shanghai and Hong Kong. Today Unilever, the Singapore Tourism Board, Singapore Press Holdings and Guardian are some of the organisations working with Hyper Island and its students. The “students” can include brand managers from client organisations, to personnel from creative and advertising agencies.



Jonathan Briggs is an advocate of market research, since some of Hyper Island courses teach the role and application of consumer feedback, in particular by using various tools and techniques in data mining and social media monitoring. Hyper Island faces several of their own challenges; for example, in how best to market themselves internationally and how to “find the people that need them”. They are also interested in competitor analysis to “see who it is that is really competing with them”.

Hyper Island has engaged market research firms in the UK and Sweden and has the ability to poll people quite easily through their own extensive databases of students, e.g. to examine trends and changing needs.

When asked how important market research is to the business, Jonathan Briggs responds, “I want to say it is both ‘very important’ and ‘not important at all’. It is very important that you are listening (to consumers), and that’s what we teach. But I also take the ‘Apple view’ that you need to take that imaginative leap of faith in what you believe – market research would never have produced the iPod, because nobody knew they needed it! Hence I need to listen to the market, I need to understand the changing role of the consumer, I need to know what is happening to my competitors, but then to an extent I need to ignore that and make a leap of faith. Hyper Island would have never existed unless a bunch of us had decided to do something quite odd and radical.”



By Piers Lee, BDRC Asia

First published in Asia Research Magazine Q1, 2014