“I get reminded from time to time that I am exactly where I want to be.”
Before you studied at Hyper Island
Hyper Island: What were you hoping to get out of studying digital business?
Andrea Meilgaard: “Personally, I did not have a specific goal in mind. Everything that happened at Hyper Island in terms of personal development was just a huge plus! Professionally, I was hoping to get closer to the creative side of business and to get exposed to interesting professions and disciplines. I was also looking to become involved in the incredible global network of people that Hyper Island have.”
What did you know about Hyper Island before you signed up for a course?
“I thought I knew a lot, but I didn’t. I knew of the teaching method – that there are industry professionals, real clients, real briefs, and that you only work in teams. My brother went to Digital Media Creative so I have heard some things from him. I could also see that he developed and grew as a person.”
Studying at Hyper Island
Can you describe what you did during the program?
“During the Business Developer program (previously called Digital Business), I learned about many different topics from branding to e-commerce to culture creation. I worked with different people each module and always learned something new, whether it was in terms of process, a topic or a skill. In each module, I worked with my team to solve briefs, create presentations and/or products and present the process and result to the client and the class in end. It was similar to working in an agency, and you get an understanding of that process which is very beneficial if you want to continue on that track after Hyper Island.
The emotions I experienced during the course ranged from being full of confidence to me questioning my own ability and competence. Everyone at Hyper has their honeymoon phase with the school, their close-to-divorce phase, and their stable phase. One emotion that was pretty stable was excitement and curiosity: you never really know what is going to happen at Hyper Island.”
“We were all different – that’s one contributing factor to why Hyper is so interesting. Different perspectives are necessary to create a great output – as long as everyone has the same goal in mind. When you get out in “real life” on a workplace, there is a broad mix of people, and Hyper taught me how to communicate and meet people no matter where they came from.
“I always say that Hyper Island is like getting access to a big playground with lots of toys and tools. It’s your own ambition that decides what you can do and how you want to spend your time. You are the captain of your own ship!”
Starting a creative agency
After graduating, you started the creative agency Frank, together with other Hyper Island students.
“We all met during the Business Developer program (previously called Digital Business). My dear friends and superwomen Emma Osvald, Andrea Dahlbäck, Nicoline Blincher and I started Frank because we wanted to be in control of our careers and professional development, not start at the bottom of the hierarchy. We felt a bit discouraged after we heard about working culture and leadership practices in the creative industry. So we built an agency centred around empathy. The mission was to bring more empathy to the business world and demonstrate the value of feminine leadership. Frank was our way to contribute to the idea of The Future is Female.
Did you directly apply things you learned at Hyper Island during your work at the agency?
“Absolutely, we used a lot of the tools we learned at Hyper Island. Our process was inspired by design thinking and human-centred design. We also had points of departure before each project in which we communicated our desired learnings so that we could be aware of how to support each other to reach those learning goals.“
“I think everyone should start their own company if it makes sense – it’s the time when I learned the most and it’s probably why I am where I am today. We also realized that starting with the why (as you learn to do at Hyper) and stating what you believe in really makes a difference. We attracted people and companies that believed in the same thing as us, which is a great start to a great partnership.
Talking about empathy in Greenwich Village
Tell us about your talk at Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village.
“I spoke about how empathy can be used as a tool for designers and strategists to produce better and more meaningful work. I also wanted to inspire and motivate them as they are young designers at the start of their journeys, so I talked about how recognizing my comfort zone and constantly trying to step out of it has helped me to grow.”
How did you get into the concept of empathy in the first place?
“We had a brainstorming session with Bella Funck and we talked about our vision and mission. We wanted to demonstrate the value of feminine leadership and contribute to a female future, the idea of working with empathy was sort of a given after having that conversation with her. I feel that it’s important that people understand the idea behind The Future is Female slogan. It simply means that personality traits that have traditionally been coded female, such as empathy, humility and sensitivity are now seen as a key to successful leadership and sustainable organizational culture. Female personality traits, as well as feminine leadership styles, are something both men and women can possess. With that said, The Future is Female does not mean that women should take over the world, just simply that related traits are an unlocked source of strategic advantage. Working with empathy was our way of communicating that. I believe everyone should try to be more empathetic at their workplace and in their work, it’s for everyone’s benefit.”
“Personality traits that have traditionally been coded female, such as empathy, humility and sensitivity are now seen as a key to successful leadership and sustainable organizational culture.”
Building brands through digital experiences
Zero Studios looks amazing! Please tell us a bit about the company!
“Zero is amazing indeed! We’re a small design studio and we build brands through digital experiences. That means we create visual brand identities but also design and develop websites. We are about 17 people in two offices now and are growing fast. We have a very fun job environment and the partners are great bosses, dear friends, and are simply just amazing people.
What are the common challenges brands face in New York?
“That’s a hard question! I believe that all e-commerce brands that are targeting millennials face the challenge of being unique in their branding – from visual identity to tone of voice to the website experience. There are a lot of millennial brands that all look sort of the same and have the same type of ads you see in the subways. Too many brands jump on trends that are not right for the brand which makes them feel inauthentic.”
What’s it like to live and work in digital in New York? Do you ever have a “Am I on TV?” moment?
“Haha. It’s crazy how even your dream life can become your everyday routine and how fast you get used to it. I do get reminders from time to time that I am exactly where I want to be, and that is a priceless feeling.”
Q: Would you say that the things you learned have helped your work?
“Yes, definitely. I would have never been where I am today without Hyper Island.”