Meet the industry leaders: Becca Taylor (Manchester School)

As someone who treads the tightrope between design practice and design theory, course supervisor and guest speaker Becca Taylor spends her time at Hyper Island encouraging students to be curious and ask a lot of questions.

Hi Becca, thanks for your time. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how your Hyper Island story began?

I come from a mixed background of design practice and design academia. When I moved to Manchester, I approached Hyper Island with my career portfolio and we had a very open conversation about theory in practice and practice in theory. One thing led to another and we were soon figuring out ways I could be of some help to Hyper Island.

So now you’re part of the family, what can students expect from working with you during their studies?

I’ve caught myself talking a lot about my experiences of design practice and design academia much like walking a tightrope. I suspend lots of questions and encourage lots of critical inquiry. You can expect to hear lots about how valuable practice is to academic research and vice versa. You’ll also find yourself asking, ‘what am I curious about?’ and, ‘how am I being curious?’

As someone with an academic background, how would you say Hyper Island differs from other schools or universities?

The Hyper Island vibe is open, honest, creative and supportive. It’s different to other schools because the competitive nature of the creative environment seems to fizzle out and that energy is replaced with a more supportive respect for one another.

Not being there all the time means I see the relationships people build and how Hyper Island fuels a vibe which brings out the best in one other.

Speaking of relationship-building, what are the people like?

It’s a mixed bag of utter nutters that are loveable, supportive and welcoming, but not afraid to give good critical reflection.

‘We all have access to the power to change something in the world, once we have access to the power we each possess in our minds.’

We’ve heard a few people talk about how the Hyper Island experience has changed them in some way. Why do you think that is?

Hyper Island has a way of creating space for freedom and structure to exist simultaneously. It does so explicitly, so it’s transparent and supportive of this disruption. As a collaborator, I’m invited and welcomed to both support/mentor and challenge/disrupt. This triggers a change of some kind, no matter how you look at it.

Outside of the school itself, what can you tell us about the city?

Manchester is a friendly city with lots of room for improvement, and which welcomes everyone’s ideas to improve it.

Those involved in the digital industries in Manchester are a mixed and diverse number of thinkers, doers, programmers, managers and entrepreneurs. A lot of tech start-ups are finding space in Manchester to design, develop and test their ideas, but those I find the most interesting are those challenging the get-rich-quick or quick-fix digital solutions. Agencies like Reason Digital are fundamentally curious about the good (and bad) sides of the internet, and the good (the bad and the ugly) use of technology.

Jaron Lanier admits that in the 1980s the community of designers and developers surrounding the web were posing the question, ‘What kind of society will come out of the internet?’ It’s a question that is still relevant today and I think Manchester is a city in which we can explore responses to this question.

So, what is it that excites you most about design thinking? Do you think it has the power to change the world?

We all have the capacity to think and, from my experience, design and digital can provide more lenses through which to see or new ways of thinking. So, yes, we all have access to the power to change something in the world once we have access to the power we each possess in our minds. It’s up to each of us to decide how or why we choose to change it.

And finally, if you could give potential students one reason to come to Hyper Island, what would it be?

One reason? If you’re looking for a supportive forum in which to experiment with doing things a little differently, Hyper Island is a great place to do that.

When she’s not mentoring students at Hyper Island, Becca is a Founding Partner at The Curiosity Bureau and a PhD Candidate at HighWire, Lancaster University. Hear more of Becca’s thoughts on the Hyper Island experience in our Industry Leaders film.