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The Pioneers 2018 Celebrating the schools that do things differently

Creative education is vital. But creative education is, in places, broken. So WeTransfer has long been interested in supporting new types of programs. It’s why we helped Nelly Ben Hayoun launch The University of the Underground, a free masters course that uses design thinking to challenge the way the world works.

From there, we developed The Pioneers list. Working with our pals at Lecture in Progress, we have identified eight schools around the world who deserve credit for doing things differently.

They might not be the biggest names, but we believe they are moving education forward in innovative, interesting and important ways.

École cantonale d'art de Lausanne (ECAL), Switzerland

ECAL invites industry leaders, from the art director of The Gentlewoman to brands like IKEA and Nestlé, to push its design students forward. And it's with great success – the Swiss school has seen graduates release several type fonts and go on to work for notable design firms.

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Gobelins l’École de l’image, France

Gobelins is a brilliant animation school with an international reputation right in the heart of Paris. The school's unusual approach to animation, focussing on 2D rather than 3D, sees graduates go off to work for the world's leading animation studios, including Disney, Universal, Hanna Barbera, Pixar, DreamWorks and Warner Bros.

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National Institute of Design (NID), India

Whereas there's many design schools in India nowadays, the NID is one of the first. It's a government-run design school, but was set up with guidance from famous designers Charles and Ray Eames. The school prioritizes learning from the field – looking at social and industrial reality, and using design to create a better quality of life.

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Uppsala University, Sweden

Located on a small Baltic island just 90 kilometres off Sweden’s mainland, Gotland is the perfect location for one of the world's leading game design courses. Not only do you feel part of a video game just walking there, even the curriculum is formed like game with students progressing from level to level.

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Berklee College of Music, USA

At this Boston-based music school they know one thing for sure; things will always change. That's why they embrace new music genres, techniques and instruments, like computer-based systems. Berklee has an impressive list of alumni, including artists like John Mayer, St Vincent, Quincy Jones and Gillian Welch.

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Hasso Platner Institute of Design Thinking, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Hasso Platner Institute of Design Thinking in Cape Town, better known as the d-school, is Africa’s only design thinking school. Students work according to the five stages of design thinking; empathy; defining the problem; ideation; prototyping; and testing. Each stage is informed by play, and focuses on finding and resolving real, meaningful problems.

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Kyoto Seika University, Japan

Kyoto Seika University believes that manga has the power to contribute to world peace. The Manga faculty focuses on originality and embraces the changing culture around the art form. In doing so it has pushed the traditionally Japanese comic beyond the country's borders.

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Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australia

Founded in 1887, RMIT has the oldest and most established photography program in the world. Dealing with an ever-changing medium, from film to digital, the Melbourne-based school aims to teach its students "a skilled hand and a cultivated mind."

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Illustrations by Jordan Andrew Carter

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  • 1. École cantonale d'art de Lausanne (ECAL), Switzerland
  • 2. Gobelins l’École de l’image, France
  • 3. National Institute of Design (NID), India
  • 4. Uppsala University, Sweden
  • 5. Berklee College of Music, USA
  • 6. Hasso Platner Institute of Design Thinking, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • 7. Kyoto Seika University, Japan
  • 8. Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australia