Our Story

How two refugees built a design studio based on friendship and shared values.

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Deroy

Hyperakt is the product of a great 20+ year friendship built on shared values. In 1996, I was lucky enough to be accepted to Parsons School of Design on a scholarship. This was my ticket out of a very insular Cuban-immigrant community in Miami. At Parsons, I always felt like a lot of my classmates took the fact that they were at a top art school in New York City for granted. Some were too cool for school, others were too posh for school (Armani in painting classes?). I might have looked like an underslept shaggy mess at the time, but I took my work very seriously. In our very first foundation year classes, I bonded with another student who shared the same work ethic. She was quiet and reserved, which I definitely wasn’t. But she was totally unconcerned with being cool and just wanted to make kickass work, which I admired tremendously. Julia and I, both immigrant kids from communist countries, knew that our families worked hard for the opportunities we enjoyed and that we could never forget that. This was the foundation of a lifelong friendship and partnership. Together, and with the help of many others, we have built a company around the mutual respect and admiration we have always had for each other.

Hyperakt was born in September of 2001, shortly after we graduated and after just a few freelance stints, and just as we were all wrapping our heads around the tragedy of 9/11. We had a lot to learn, but ignorance makes you fearless. We took every project we could get our hands on and learned how to run a business the hard way – slowly. This proved to be invaluable.

When Barack Obama entered the scene and social justice entered the public conversation the economy was in a freefall. It was indeed time for change.

Julia and I decided our effort would be most useful supporting local arts and social justice organizations on the frontlines. We were eager to elevate their stories, and empower them with better design. As the studio grew and evolved we grew more and more into our own shoes and started working with national and global organizations. Ultimately, I think we’ve come full circle to what brought us together to begin with – we’ve built a design practice around shaping a future where everyone has a fair chance – like we ourselves had so many years ago. Today, we are proud to be surrounded by a diverse, talented team who are all driven by this passion.

Julia

To me, the founding story starts long before Hyperakt was born. In 1996, after moving to the USA from Ukraine 2 years earlier, I attended Parsons School of Design on a scholarship. As a recent immigrant with a thick Russian accent and second-hand clothes, I wanted to assimilate and blend in more than anything. I remember the early days of a freshman year when I reluctantly wore my mother’s unworn sneakers that never fit her in the first place. Yet, she carefully moved them across multiple borders like a precious dowery for me. They were patriotically colored and had traces of a bowling shoe form and style. That day during 2-D fundamentals class, in a room that smelled of rubber cement and freshly unpacked color-aid packages, one of my college classmates, long haired with bell bottoms and a purple beret, had come up to me to say, “those are cool shoes” and after a few exchanges asked where I was from and shared with me that he was born in Cuba. This was a start to my near-life-long friendship with Deroy.

At Parsons, Deroy and I were fierce competitors and attentive collaborators who were growing up with each other for the next few sleepless years. We shared a common background: both former refugees from communist countries, both creative, both hardworking, both were given a chance to get top art school education and a chance at the American dream.

Upon graduation and a few freelance stints later, we joined forces. In 2001, Hyperakt was born. At first, we designed everything for everyone, including the world of advertising that we found unattractive. In those professionally formative years, Deroy and I realized how much we enjoyed helping local arts, human rights, and activism orgs. We were eager to elevate their stories, help them increase their donations, empower them with better design. As the studio grew, we envisioned a world where everyone has a fair chance like we did so many years ago. Fast forward to today. We must have built something extraordinary because these amazingly talented people who work here today proudly call themselves Hyperaktivists.

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