Meet the alumni – Rita Cervetto

After seven years in the advertising industry, Rita Cervetto was looking to change her career and add value to the world, but she wasn’t sure how. Then, while at Cannes Festival one year she stumbled across a Hyper Island talk and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hi Rita, what’s your Hyper Island story?

A couple of years ago I saw someone speak at the Cannes Festival. I was intrigued by Hyper Island and marveled at the simplicity of the ethos. I thought they know what I’m talking about! I should go there.

Faced with the options of London, Singapore or Manchester, I decided to study Digital Media Management full-time in Manchester. I chose not to do part-time as I wanted an immersive experience, and I chose Manchester because Singapore felt too similar to Dubai (which is where I was living at the time). I was looking to really change my mindset, my work and my environment, so Manchester it was.

Having already had a bit of insight about Hyper Island before joining, how did it match up to your expectations?

I wanted it to be different to advertising and to challenge me. I didn’t want to respond to briefs blindly, I wanted to think. I was challenged in ways I didn’t expect and had to unlearn a lot of things. Things about the way I work and the way I approach problems. I had to do things differently myself. That was hard but eye-opening.

And what about the people you met when you got there? What’s the community like?

I met people from all over the world, but the thread linking most of them was kindness and brains. There was a saying written on the wall of the building: ‘Nothing at Hyper Island is someone else’s problem.’ We cared for each other, because in times of transformation you need care… you’re fragile when you’re reunderstanding ways of working and redefining your working self. We were in a hotbed of ideas and experimentation; we stuck together for a reason.

Are you still friends with anyone now?

Yes! Although most people moved back to their hometowns, it’s normal for our Whatsapp group to be full of birthday celebrations, messages and random questions like ‘What is the Nordic model?’ or ‘How did stop/start/continue work?’. We share links, check on each other and celebrate one another’s media appearances or start-up launches.

‘Having the tools and methods to go through the design process in an organized manner is a life-changer.’

When it comes to studying, is there ever a typical day at Hyper Island?

It’s a mix. There are routines to follow, like check-ins and check-outs, and the programme is planned out, but not fixed to those plans. You will work alone, in groups, late, early, freely, in tight schedules, it will be fluid. You’re free to schedule your life at Hyper Island to align with those around you. At the end of the day, we all wanted to make the most of it.

And from all those varied days, do you have a favorite memory of Hyper Island?

Walking into the studio and finding some sort of weird shrine thing. It was composed of an inflatable tiger who had a flower crown, a cape, food gifts under it and the whole thing was hanging from the roof. It had a label that said ‘Tiger God’. There was never an explanation. That’s the kind of randomness you’re allowed to have here in Manchester and I love it!

Now you’re alumni and back out in the world of industry, do you feel like your experiences at Hyper Island have changed you and your approach to work?

Yes. I’m less of a pain in the a** to work with. I’m more empathetic and I’m able to let go of the plan when it’s detrimental to the client or team. Thinking and being critical about what I’m doing has been a crucial learning from Hyper Island. Having the tools and methods to go through the design process in an organized manner is a life-changer. I’m now also forging myself a new career in design, having been invited to speak at many events and even share a panel with esteemed industry peers like Ben Terret, Ever Coleman and Dan Hill.

When it comes to your growing design career and the future of the industry in general, what are you most excited about?

That design and digital needs to start considering its human and environmental impact immediately, and that I can be part of that shift. Many companies focus too much on feasibility rather than ethics. We have to align with more and more people who see how important it is to measure our impact on each other and the world.

It sounds like Hyper Island has been part of a positive change for you, both professionally and personally. Is there anything you’d like to tell potential students?

If you are at the edge of change in your life and want to embrace design and all its methods, jump on board! This is definitely your ride.

Hyper Island is a hub for people who are committed to change, and who may have already actioned a big change in their lives. It’s for determined people who want to push themselves to work differently, and to do so immediately using some of the tools they already have.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Some people may say that Hyper Island is a bubble, that you leave it and discover the world is a cold place. I think that’s the wrong way to see it. Connecting with people is what makes Hyper Island so enjoyable. The problem is that existing systems (of work, of living, of traveling, of growing old) keep us away from each other. If you do come to Hyper Island, make it your mission to extend the culture of connection after the programme and find likeminded designers to build wonderful things with!