The motivation behind creative production company Hook’s education series, “Education Sprints,” is that by educating and inspiring others, creatives can reap the benefits themselves.
Hook has launched an ongoing internal education series aimed at channeling its design team’s knowledge inward, for the benefit of colleagues beyond their immediate team. Founded by the agency’s broader creative team, the initiative is spearheaded by Mikell Fine-Iles, executive design director.
“We know one thing for certain—People want to learn and grow and expand. And if we can help them do that, why wouldn’t we?” asked Fine-Iles.
That’s why hook is running a few sessions each month on everything from skills sharing to tool use, giving Hook’s designers the ability to focus on a theme and dig deep.
Here’s how it works: Hook picks a topic that gives the team a short-term focus and builds a highly curated approach to teaching that topic which will expose employees to new skill sets, helpful processes, and project deep dives. The topic is then explored in two ways, by a weekly course and through workshops.
For the weekly course, one or two teachers peel back the curtain and walk through a topic in detail with the goal of breaking down the topic into a digestible format. One teacher teaches four classes and participants commit to attending all the classes with zero homework.
The workshops use different lecturers from various teams at Hook to explore real tools, processes or client projects. They’re complemented by providing real world context and perspective.
Below is a Q&A with Fine-Iles.
Q: What inspired the education sprints?
A: People at Hook tend to be naturally curious and driven, and are constantly looking to develop or refine their skills. We’ve found in turn that the more we teach these skills, the better Hook functions across projects, client needs, creative executions, and overall morale. This is why we embrace a ‘forever learning’ mindset as an agency.
Since we have an impressive amount of talent and experience in-house to teach and lead—including people with intimate knowledge of how specific skills relate directly to our client needs—and therefore didn’t need to tap outside forces. The benefit is two-fold, given that we learn from teachers we trust and respect, and our teachers in turn develop their skills as thought leaders and public speakers.
Our goal was to replace some ad hoc design team meetings with a more focused curriculum and agenda, informed by collective interests across the departments. Previously, we were having multiple conversations in smaller group settings in order to address topics that felt relevant to the broader group. The plan with this new format was to unite the design and motion departments to focus on a central theme over the span of three months.
What do the sessions offer, and what are some of the topics you’ve covered?
The curriculum was designed to loosely follow the lifespan of a project, from briefing to delivery. So far we’ve conducted classes and workshops for two topics, and the format has evolved. The first topic, Research & References, covered different ways of interpreting a brief, gathering references, brainstorming, and presenting early findings. These lessons were split into four separate sessions, led by one of our associate design directors, complemented by five additional workshops, each led by a different member of the motion and design teams.
The second topic, Developing a Concept, had a slightly different format. The executive design director, and motion director split teaching duties across the four classes—Implementing the Brief, Convergent & Divergent Thinking, Mental Models, and Presenting the Idea. Four workshops followed, each led by different members of the teams.
With no homework included in the lesson plans, we sought ways to provide hands-on design exercises during each class for interactivity and collaboration.
Who teaches these courses and how do you decide on topics?
Class instructors are selected based on one core criteria—that they possess extensive experience and an advanced level of skill in the chosen area—so we enlisted Associate Director level and up for classes, and senior level and up for workshops. Additionally, each instructor must have demonstrated a high degree of thought leadership, organization and presentation abilities. Last but not least, there is a significant effort to have a mix of motion, graphic design, and creative teams represented, with a diverse spectrum of ethnic and gender identities, as well as geographies.
The topics are determined based on common interests that come up during 1:1 discussions with managers, individual goal setting, team meetings, and organizational growth areas.
What are the takeaways from the classes?
“In any group of creative collaborators, tons of skills, perspectives and wisdom can stay hidden in plain sight,” said Amber Magee, associate design director. “Elsewhere in my career, discovering a passion or expertise in a colleague or sharing my own would rely on circumstance, and that valuable information was rarely shared across the boundaries of project teams or small groups of collaborators.
“When I joined Hook, it was obvious right away that this program is actually a priority, not just a notion. I learned about Education Sprints in my first days here and participated soon after. As a result, I’ve connected with people I may have never met and discovered a generosity of knowledge and experience extending well beyond each session—opening doors and leaving them open.”
Nick Lerum, motion director, added: “Places I’ve worked in the past have encouraged on-the-job learning, but Hook takes it to the next level with Education Sprints. The structured curriculum gives us the opportunity to learn from in-house experts and it also sparks organic, agency-wide conversations around the chosen topic. And my favorite “hidden benefit” of the program? Volunteering to teach a class or lead a workshop is a great opportunity to practice public speaking in a safe and supportive environment—a skill that comes in handy for client reviews.