Hyper Island Launches in NYC

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Swedish digital school Hyper Island is stepping up its stateside presence with the help of a new adviser, former head of Wieden & Kennedy, New York, Buz Sawyer.

Mr. Sawyer has joined Hyper Island to lead its U.S. expansion strategy after leaving his post as managing director of Wieden & Kennedy in April. He was succeeded in the role by Neal Arthur, who led strategic planning at Wieden since 2005.

While Mr. Sawyer, a strategic development adviser, admits he's not a digital expert, he believes his experience clocking time at agencies affords Hyper Island the chance to better attract candidates to its program from U.S. shops. "They know digital, they know education, but what they don't know is the U.S. ad agency business," said Mr. Sawyer of his new employer. "My job is to figure out strategies for them to grow, both short and long term."

In Sweden, the school offers long-term courses on topics such as digital production, motion graphics, mobile apps, e-commerce and interactive art direction. Hyper Island's U.S. masters course is for advertising professionals looking to beef up their knowledge of digital communications trends and strategy. Hyper Island has also recently applied to get certification from the state of New York to offer one- and two-year programs.

Tonight, the school officially launches its U.S. headquarters and educational space on New York's Lower East Side.

Buz Sawyer
Buz Sawyer

The school's reputation preceded its U.S. launch for churning out some of the best and brightest talent in digital advertising. To date, it supports 300 students in its two Swedish schools. In October, it hosted its first three-day masters classes in the U.S. with the One Club and has since also developed a number of tailor-made courses for agencies. The school, with roots in Swedish military training, has imported Anders Sjostedt from home to serve as managing director of Hyper Island New York.

"We're having a hard time keeping up with the growth right now," Mr. Sawyer said. "The challenge we will have is to make sure the infrastructure is scalable and that the quality is maintained."

At the same time, the school is making an effort to marry the old with the new. Added Mr. Sawyer: "Two years ago a lot of people were running over to the digital side of the boat and leaving the other side stranded. We need to address those issues and my job is to figure out a strategy on how to do that."