In one of our most revealing and personal alumni stories yet, we reconnect with design alumni, Henry Tam, co-founder of Design for HK. Prior to joining Hyper Island, Henry felt lost. He found himself at the border of university life and entering the workforce. Traditional family values told him that a good job would automatically follow a university education. With doubt playing on his mind, Henry was lacking in confidence and had an overpowering sense of insecurity. Here, Henry describes firsthand how his pursuit of creativity led him to Hyper Island—where everything changed. Read on to find out how and why.

A cultural and traditional stronghold

Dear Hyper Island,

First of all, I’ve got to say a massive thank you because you have changed the story of this young man.

“By the end of my time with you, I had become confident, secure, and felt like I could do anything on Earth. It was truly a story of transformation.”


Being brought up in an Asian family, I was under the impression that I was destined to either become a doctor or a lawyer. My grades at school supported this route, but when I couldn’t get into medical school, I ended up going to university to study Biomedical Sciences. I still remember my first day of university. I told myself that I was never going to become a doctor because not only did I not like it, but I also sucked at it! In my experience from my upbringing, there was an attitude of “Do well at school and there is nothing to worry about afterwards, you will get a good job.” So, I held myself together and powered through university, hoping that the story was indeed true.

After graduating from university, I’d hit rock bottom.

What I had always believed in wasn’t true; getting good grades at university didn’t lead to landing a good job afterwards. I literally did not know what I wanted to do in life, I’d wake up in the morning asking myself “What do I do today?”, and slowly I started to ask myself “Why am I here, what is the purpose of my life?” I remember locking myself in a room for a few months and not wanting to see anyone because I didn’t want to face the truth of life.

The pursuit of transformation led me to a world of design

I was really thinking hard about what I enjoyed the most in my life, and a little voice told me “creativity” was a significant element. I really enjoyed thinking about new business ideas, solving problems, and just to be creative.

However, the expectation of becoming a doctor and being in the creative field is quite different. I was really worried about telling my family about my idea of pursuing a career as a designer. I had no idea what they would think, and I felt like I could be letting them down.

“I didn’t know anything about design, and I was just desperately looking for something practical and affordable to kickstart my new journey in life.”

Eventually, I found a short and intensive Graphic Design course in Manchester. Day one of that course changed my life. The more I learned about design, the more I started to realize it was something so powerful that it can change our world. It can change how we think, feel, and do. I really wanted to know more about the meaning of design and how it can actually bring more positivity to our world.

After trying to get my foot through the design door in Manchester with no luck, it felt like I was heading back to square one. Then a friend of mine, Fiona, introduced me to a school in Manchester called Hyper Island, and suggested it might be a good option for me.

I quickly made the call and got a meeting booked in. After an insightful tour and discussion about the Service Design, Experience Design and Design Thinking courses, I just knew that Hyper Island was all about meaningful designs that are impactful to the world. I’d also read that the majority of Hyper Island graduates gain a job pretty much straight after the course!

The Hyper Island Way transformational experience

I cried on my first week of Hyper Island. The first week was about reflection and understanding the concepts and principles of Hyper Island. I learned so much about myself; why I am here, how I am during difficult situations, my mental models, how I solve problems, and how I work with teams.

“After that week, I knew that Hyper Island is all about helping you to find yourself. It’s a personal journey where you discover all your strengths and weaknesses during the course.”

There were no books, no classes, no teachers and no homework. I thought to myself, “What will I learn?” These doubts were quickly removed. Hyper Island is the future of education. Everything you learn at Hyper Island is part of real-world challenges, and it’s very practical as you learn by doing. You make decisions, facilitate workshops, manage clients, carry out contextual research, collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams, and create tangible solutions with purposeful outcomes—to name a few!

Throughout the projects we would have constant reflection and feedback. In simple words, I learned from failure. For example, my team had a massive conflict during the research stage. Everyone was doing things separately, there were no goals or alignment, and we ended up in a big argument. After my one-to-one meeting with our program leaders, I learned that agile management was what was needed to handle our situation. By setting up a kanban board together, we created a transparent workflow in the team, and it resulted in us moving towards our goal together.

My transformation journey takeaways

The beauty of Hyper Island is that it provides a safe space for you to fail, try something new, and learn what’s required to help you develop your own tools and methodology to solve problems.

Through real-world projects, I managed to develop my strengths through constant reflection and feedback. I remember pitching our idea at the BBC headquarters. I was so nervous and I didn’t do well in the presentation. I forgot my script and couldn’t explain our idea clearly. However, through the feedback and reflection I learned to just be myself and not to follow the script. I became better and better as I did more presentations, and I remember absolutely nailing my final presentation at Hyper Island!

“The transformation is real because I have constantly learned from my failures.”

I returned to Hong Kong with two of my beloved Hyper classmates to start a consultancy agency, aiming to help companies to innovate. However, due to the stress of starting up a business, I had to take a break from being an entrepreneur. However, I was still very confident and knew exactly who I was because of my time at Hyper Island, which led me to scoring my first job as a Service Designer at Make Studios.

After a fruitful year there, I reminded myself why I came back to Hong Kong: to bring creativity back to Hong Kong and spread the love of design to everyone.

I met my current business partner at a Design Jam event, and we realized we were both very passionate about helping Hong Kong to be creative again. We needed to start from an education standpoint to inspire and help the next generation to become future leaders.

“We decided to make Hong Kong’s education system like Hyper Island; where there are no teachers, no classrooms, no books, and students can learn anything they want through real-world challenges. Most importantly, students can have their own personal discovery journey.”

By the end of their education with us, we believe students will know exactly who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they want to change our world.


Thank you Hyper Island for helping me to find my reason to wake up every day. You inspired me to find myself and do something I love. I will take on the mission and continue spreading the love of design to everyone I know.

I will never forget that “Team is everything”. Let’s expand our team and make our world a better place with the power of design!


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Article updated on: 13 March 2024