Refresh meets Tash: The future of education looks like a jazz club

Tash presenting at Gothenburg CreativeMornings event

Tash presenting at Gothenburg CreativeMornings event

Tash Willcocks, the Head of Education at Hyper Island, and the Leader of the Digital Management and Digital Experience Design Master programmes is one of our speakers at Refresh Conference. Tash is a designer with 20 years of experience in the creative industry. She is now facilitating and designing the Master programmes in the UK and speaking about topics she is passionate about.

Hyper Island is a digital creative business school where students can explore and develop digital products and transformative technology.

Hyper Island was named "The Digital Harvard" and listed by CNN as one of the "most interesting schools around the world".

Amongst their learning partners are well-known companies such as Adidas, Instagram, Google, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Samsung.

We interviewed Tash to give you an impression of her life, ideas, and work.


Tash, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what have you done so far, and what are you currently working on?
Hello, I am Tash. I am the Head of School at Hyper Island, a creative business school, and I am the Programme Leader of the Digital Experience Design & Digital Management Masters in the UK. I have worked in education, freelanced, and founded Mundaneaday/MapMyMCR. And I have given numerous talks around the world like TedX & Creative Mornings.
Right now I am facilitating and designing the Masters in the UK. I am working with the incredible HI students on their journey with the great HI Team, and just finished a tech mural (a mural about tech or in a tech environment) and appear to have a new name as "innovation illustrator".


What is your vision for education and personal development? How can Hyper Island contribute to that?


My vision is to create a school that not only educates people on a subject, is that digital, tech or business, but one that also aligns their personal goals, motivations, and feelings. 


Hyper Island allows this to grow and flourish, we are always learning and adapting to people and as a school. I am really proud of what Hyper Island is doing globally and their constant steps to keep improving.


What motivates you?
A lot of the time my students, they are amazingly motivated, creative, aim high and open to learning. It is inspiring to be around, you can never sit still with that amount of energy, research, and ideas.


What does education mean to you?
I cannot talk for education as a whole, it is a huge area and I feel you cannot throw the education of a neurosurgeon into the same arena, say, as of an illustrator. An industry leader used the phrase "as long as no one gets sacked or dies" as a way of getting the student to really push ideas … in neurosurgery someone can die!

So I am answering from my experience in Higher Education & Creative/Design where I started working in Universities part-time over 20 years ago. Education has changed so much and is still developing, which it always should, education can never become static.

Digital has really altered the delivery of learning but also the mindset. There is no longer one scholar with one book and all the knowledge. Students now have a multitude of answers and opinions at their fingertips, it is about helping them to navigate this, develop a critical mindset and question everything.


Education should be a safe space to grow, experiment, innovate and stretch your ideas and opinions. It is about enabling the students to ideate, experiment, and stretch without fear of judgment. From their peers, speakers and themselves.


I am a big fan of Charles Limb, ironically Chief of Otology/Neurotology, who looks into ways of quieting the frontal lobe. He looks at the brains of "improvising musicians and studies what parts of the brain are involved in the kind of deep creativity that happens when a musician is really in the groove". It is about creating that psychological safety to release the creativity.


How does the future of education look like?
A jazz club where the musicians are a healthy mix of students, industry, and experts in their field playing and learning together while a facilitator curates the nights. This could be online, offline, or a mix. Creativity should not stop because you cannot be in the same room.


How does digitalization change education? How can education benefit from digitalization?
It has changed everything. The generation Z knows no different and the Alphas behind them will learn in a completely new manner. Digital affects attention spans, the way we interact, the way we consume information. This can have a positive or negative impact depending on the way we adapt and work with this.

Digitalisation can have an amazing impact consumed in the right way. One part of the education should be about moral and ethical approaches and stance, about mental well being etc, this should be layered in as early as possible rather than waiting until it is too late. Prevention rather than cure.


I liked your blog post about why good is not good enough? Can you amplify it a little bit for our readers?
If we settle for good enough, we will never move forward. Sometimes there is a tendency to only fix it when it is broken, but if we look at it as good enough is not good enough, we open the floor for innovation. I would say there is a good balance of "done is better than perfect" (Sheryl Sandberg) in there. Keep on pushing, keep on testing. But do not burn yourself out. (If you want to learn more, read Tash's post about can openers.)

A tech mural by Tash Willcocks

A tech mural by Tash Willcocks

Last but not least some fire questions. Please complete the following sentences:
I should do more often …

... say no and be comfortable with it.

Never be afraid of …
... anything, except bears, or things that can kill you, be scared of things that, as a human, you should be - not judgment, opinions or taking a healthy risk.

Success is …
... for you to measure, but do not underestimate yourself.

Failure is …
... OK if you learn from it.

Knowledge is …
... there for you to find, have fun with.





Refresh Conference is a product, design and front end conference. It will take place on September 7 for the fourth time already and will bring 20 great speakers and 700 attendees to Tallinn, Estonia. Refresh provides inspiration for building great product experiences and design on the web.


Author: Katharina Sowa
Social Media Marketing & Content
Refresh Conference