Interview with Mattias Hansson the CEO of Hyper Island

Mattias Hansson Photo

What is the mission of Hyper Island?

To create a better work environment. Really! Our method teaches students to become better leaders and co-workers. Right now our mission is offered to the "digital" world, and has been for more than fourteen years. The reason we are in digital/interactive is because that is what we are interested in.

Students at Hyper Island don't receive university equivalent degrees. How has the Hyper Island diploma been accepted by employers?

Each student at Hyper Island's long term programs (one or two years) get between five (5) and fifty six (56) job offers during their education. More than 80 percent of those offers are in countries outside Sweden, many of them are in the US. They go to the CP+B's, the Goodby's, the R/GA's, the Droga5's, etc., etc.

The school has been in operation since 1995. That's a long time in the digital world. It puts Hyper Island in an interesting position to predict the future for digital media. What trends do you see digital media taking?

We do not know much about digital media really. Our lecturers do and our students do. Hyper Island is a education company that is very good at always knowing who in the world that would be the best lecturer in that specific subject at that specific time. We are also very good at attracting the best talent and at creating a great learning environment for them. That makes it possible for each and every student to be able to discover him/herself and practice a lot of group dynamics. Students who study at Hyper Island have very diverse backgrounds. Not only in the countries they come from but in the professional backgrounds they possess.

The most common nationality is still Swedish. Right now fourteen (14) nationalities are studying at Hyper Island in Sweden. Their background are very different but hey all have one thing in common - they want to learn, and are open to learn new things in new ways. Also, their ages vary greatly as they are between 20 and 40 years old. Since we accept students not only by their portfolios but more for who they are and what they want to become, I am glad to say that there is no "typical student".

What careers does Hyper Island prepare graduates for?

Each student decides by themselves what career they want to take on. We need to label the programs to be able to get the government funding.

I was really impressed with a few student web projects that I have seen over the years. Do you have any prized student web projects you would like to share that showcase what students can accomplish during their time at Hyper Island?

We, as a education company, try to stay outside the advertising and design competitions. We do not want to judge students. However, we almost always have current or former students involved as winners in most of those competitions. Hyper Island students do a lot of cool stuff while with us. Here is some stuff to start with:

Can you speak a bit about your background and how you became a co-owner and CEO of Hyper Island? How did your path lead you to your current position?

I have worked professionally with interactive media since 1994. And I cried the first time I left Hyper Island as a lecturer in the late 1990's. Simply because that was the first time the audience (students) knew more than me about the subject. Since then I have kept a close eye on every step this very different place has been taken. Finally there was an opening for a new CEO and I was lucky to get the job. Now I am also a proud co-owner of the company that right now is growing faster than ever.

What was the subject of your first lecture at Hyper Island in the late 90's? How did you choose that subject?

Sorry, can't remember. Probably something like "The Death of Portals" or "Mobile Communication Utopia" or something alike, that was a hot topic of the times.

How did you get involved with interactive media in 1994?

A friend at Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering showed an international chat-room on one of the school's Internet-connected computers. I was amazed! Suddenly I could chat instantly with other Dinosaur Jr. fans all over the world. My background as a journalist and magazine editor led me to the offices at Wired in San Francisco. I went straight back to Sweden and did my own version of it with a big Scandinavian publisher. It was called z.mag@zine and the most common question I got back then was "Digital revolution? Internet? Why not make a magazine about fax-machines also?"

What is your educational/creative background? Do you have a personal web site?

I started out as a reporter in local newspapers when I was 15. I was the editor-in-chief at the Swedish equivalent of the Village Voice (named Nöjesguiden) when I was 22. Ironically my personal web page has not been updated in two years: I made it myself one weekend with iWeb. I have no knowledge whatsoever about coding and programming. I will probably take it down soon.

What would you say to digital artists who feel they have reached as far as they can developmentally in their field and or creatively? Any words of inspiration you care to share?

Do something completely else for a while. Inspiration will come back. So change! But do not just think about it. Do it!

Currently Hyper Island is partnering with University of Colorado at Boulder ( to help develop Boulder Digital Works. What can you say about the program and what part will Hyper Island have in helping to develop this new school?

Hopefully our deep knowledge in non-academic learning will inspire BDW to do something that others have not been able to do before them.

What do these schools offer that traditional university programs are not able to offer?


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