When Huge launched the Huge School at their Brooklyn headquarters, it was out of necessity. The increasing scale of both projects and the business as a whole also brought with it an increased demand for more and more specialist interaction designers. Assessing staffing needs, it became obvious that some of the best talent at Huge had grown with the company. Talent that was given the time to grow.
However, while training people on the job worked well in the past, the time needed to provide new designers with a holistic understanding of both the work and Huge’s working style had become an issue. The incredibly competitive environment for recruiting talent complicated things even further. All this led to the conclusion that having the best designers on the team meant developing them in-house. The vision of attracting and fostering the best emerging design prospects in the world sits at the core of what is today the Huge School.
From student to teacher
Having graduated from Huge School myself as part of the inaugural class, I had the chance to get involved as a mentor and teacher on a number of occasions during the 6 years that I worked for Huge full time. Two longer placements at the Huge Brooklyn office during the summer months of 2014 and 2015 meant that I was able to help structure the curriculum, teach classes, and mentor students.
Hired full time
After years of success with the program — for a while, the London team alone included four designers who had graduated from the Huge School — trialing the concept in a market like London was the logical next step. Given my experience both as a successful graduate and teacher, I was trusted with a leading role in planning, structuring, recruiting for, and running the program.
Finding the right candidates
Taking into account the significantly smaller size of the team in London, we decided to run the trial here with only three students, instead of the usual 8-10 students per class in Brooklyn. A larger class usually means more options for dividing students into balanced groups once the project work kicks off. A luxury we did not have.
As a result, recruiting had to be even more thorough as we needed to find students who we thought would provide that balance right away. To do so we defined three skill categories to vet applicants against: Strategy, Design, Prototyping. The ideal group of 3 should have at least one strong representative for each category, with candidates also showing potential in the other two categories.
Recruiting comprised three rounds: Initial applications and portfolio review (113) was followed by a design brief and presentations with a selection of applicants (17), resulting in a shortlist of candidates for a final round of interviews (8), out of which we chose our group of three. There were four of us in total deciding on whom to move forward each round. At least two people at a time would be present for presentations and interviews.
Developing the curriculum
The school’s curriculum consists of a mix of lectures, mini-exercises, and design reviews led by members of Huge’s UX team and beyond. The bulk of the students’ time during the 10-week program is spent creating.
Over the years, a tremendous amount of effort has gone into creating, maintaining, and expanding the curriculum, which is designed to provide a deep-dive into the fundamentals of the experience design field. But as the industry advances, the curriculum has to advance as well to keep it relevant. Each year, as different employees prepare to teach the new group of students, materials from previous years are subject to review.
Coincidently, that year, Huge had recently redesigned their slide templates. We decided to use this as an opportunity to restructure the curriculum. Where necessary, we recreated lessons or introduced entirely new segments, aligning all lessons to seamlessly build on one another. Case studies and sample deliverables used throughout the lessons now originated predominately in London, allowing us to speak in full depth about them.
Ten weeks of learning
During the first three weeks, the training intensive, we ran a total of 14 lectures. A number of exercises and mentoring sessions complemented the lectures. With an understanding of the fundamentals our students Luca, Carlota, and Agnieszka were then briefed on and included in some of the day-to-day project work to learn the ways of working at Huge. Finally, for the remaining 6 weeks, the trio was given their own project brief.
Setting timelines, researching the landscape, defining the strategic approach, designing and validating the experience, organizing regular check-ins with mentors and the project stakeholders was now all up to the students. Their hard work concluded with a final presentation to the entire office.
While Huge School was a valuable experience for the trainees, there was also a great deal of learning for us as a company and for me personally. Developing the program helped to form a more cohesive vision of how we approach each task and, more importantly, what we value most in our project work and employees.