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Posted 03 March 2021

We go behind the scenes at Wix Playground Academy to meet the team

You’ll almost definitely know of Wix already, the platform that helps you build a website, fuss-free; but what you might not know is that Wix has its very own design school: the Wix Playground Academy. Taking place twice a year, the courses are designed for emerging creatives, to help build their portfolios while gaining real-world experience and skills. Here, we go behind the scenes with Lee Kenneth, brand and partnerships manager at Wix, before getting to know the team running these inspiring programmes.

Wix Playground Academy


Based

The team work remotely, but main offices are in Tel Aviv and NYC; with additional locations in UK, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, Lithuania, Canada, Singapore

Founded

Wix: 2006
Wix Playground Academy: 2018

Team Size

Wix: 4,600
Wix Playground Academy: 10

Working Hours

Flexible

Links

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

Wix Playground Academy presentation, before the pandemic moved things online

Overview

How would you describe what Wix Playground Academy is?
The Wix Playground Academy is where you’ll essentially learn everything and anything they don’t teach you at school. It’s a place to get street-smart design and creative education, usually gained outside of class – in the ‘playground’.

Wix is a fast-growing, design-first tech company, and a few years ago we realised just how much knowledge and experience we had to share with emerging design talent. We wanted to give back to the creative community, so now we give our students the opportunity to gain real-life experience with clients, deadlines and colleagues, while acquiring soft skills and methods we implement within our in-house teams.

“We realised how much knowledge we had to share with emerging design talent. We wanted to give back to the creative community.”

How did Wix Playground Academy come about?
We launched the Wix Playground Academy out of commitment to the industry and to the new talent joining it every year. We wanted to be there for them in the first steps of their professional development, and the relationship with that younger generation goes both ways – as they constantly challenge our product.

Our first cohorts were part of three-month programmes that took place in our physical space in New York. When Covid-19 hit, we transferred to online, and added a one-month programme for Europeans. The programme is intensive and includes a lot of self-exploration, so we encourage all our students to commit to the process.

Students of the Wix Playground Academy

Can you give us an overview of the programmes and how can people apply?
Everything currently takes place on Zoom and we have three different programmes to cater for different time zones. During the course, students meet for eight hours a day, four times a week.

  • The US programme runs from May 31st, 2021, until June 25th, 2021 – four days a week, 9am to 5pm EST.
  • The European programme runs from July 26th, 2021, until August 27th, 2021 – five days a week, 1pm to 9pm.
  • The Tel Aviv programme (for IST time zones) runs from July 12th, 2021, until August 12th – four times a week, 10am to 5pm.

Alongside playful and experimental workshops, the sessions focus on discovering personal brand, building an online portfolio, enhancing web-design skills and self-promotion.

In the past, our guest lecturers have included Jessica Walsh, Debbie Millman, Alexandra Zsigmond, Adam Kurtz, Ollie Olanipekun, Nicole Ginelli and Hagit Kaufman.

How do you choose successful applicants, and do you have tips for anyone applying?
Applications are open to those aged 18 and over; you don’t necessarily need to be a design student or ex-student; you could be a freelance designer, or work in a design-related field. To apply, you have to submit either a portfolio website, PDF, or a folder with your work (portfolios built with Wix will have an advantage!), and successful applicants will be called for a short interview.

We’re looking for passionate, enthusiastic creatives who are excited to dedicate time to self-exploration and development. We look out for a spark of personality, combined with a high level of design understanding and practice.

Applicants should be proficient in typographic design, layout design and composition. They should be hard working, with a fresh voice and a unique point of view throughout their work.

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Some of the students on the programme, before the course went online due to Covid-19

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The Work

In terms of projects, what have been the highlights from the past year?
Like everyone, we had to be agile when Covid-19 hit, and rethink the nature of an academy. However, since developing progressive design methods is part of our day-to-day job, it was easy to adjust for our students.

Summer 2020 marked our first three-month programme to take place online. It turned out to be a success; we found creative ways to teach and mentor, maintain playfulness and interact with the students. It also increased our ambition of reaching creative in new territories.

Are there projects the students work on that don’t get publicised?
Part of the three-month programme includes students building websites for local NYC nonprofits. This is an opportunity for them to work with clients on real websites, while supporting local initiatives. When Covid-19 hit, we built sites for local businesses who were struggling as a result of the pandemic.

We know the Wix Playground Academy has its own blog – what should we not miss on there?
We always try to be practical, so here’s a post to a useful guide for creating a photo shoot indoors; and here’s the guide on Instagram.

“Part of the programme includes building websites for nonprofits [so] the students get to work with real clients while supporting local initiatives.”

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Some of the students at work

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Environment and Culture

What would you say the culture is like at Wix?
Work hard, play hard would probably sum it up! In general, the vibe at Wix is fun and relaxed.

What’s the Wix office like, and what do you miss about it now you’re working from home?
Our Tel Aviv office is located near the beach, so that’s always a good place to go to release pressure. Now we’re not in the office, I guess we mainly miss seeing each other. We usually meet to host events, and then the entire team gets together in NYC for the programme.

However, through working from home, we have got to know each other's families and it has brought us closer. We try to keep some aspects tangible, like sending each other gifts on birthdays or special occasions.

Inside Wix, Tel Aviv
Some of the Wix team at work, before the pandemic

What’s been your favourite WFH moment so far?
We just wrapped up our winter 2021 programme with a fun party with all the mentors and students. We hosted a DJ who played live music and got to know some goats in a unique workshop! Everyone was dressed up as if they were going clubbing and added Zoom effects to match.

When you think about Wix Playground Academy in 10 years’ time, what comes to mind?
I see it becoming a natural transition phase between design school education, where young creatives get the practical boost they need before embarking on their careers. We like to imagine that we’ll be able to expand globally and provide more and more young talents with these inclusive opportunities, solely based on talent.

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Behind the scenes on the Wix Playground Academy coursework

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Meet some of the team

Below we get to know some more of the brilliant creatives working behind-the-scenes at Wix Playground Academy.

Dafna Sharabi, art director

How would you describe your role at Wix?
Together with the team, I help build the curriculum for each and every programme. This involves choosing the right speakers from industry, which means finding experienced and inspiring designers to share their knowledge, alongside professionals from inside Wix.

We also oversee a section of the programme to check there is enough balance between tough lessons, self-exploration, fun interludes and a sense of togetherness.

Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work?
I did complete my degree, and for me personally I needed the school environment to learn and to get to know other creatives, and it suited my personality. Having said that, I’ve worked with plenty of people who didn’t get formal education and are brilliant designers. I think it’s personal choice, and a great portfolio is a great portfolio.

What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do similar work?
Have patience and get experience!

What do you recommend for a hit of inspiration?
Lately I’ve been loving Naama Zohar’s’s account. Her work with natural materials is great; I hope someday I can attend one of her workshops.

Yotam Kellner, Design Director and Lead Mentor

How would you describe your role at Wix?
I lead the mentorship side of the Wix Playground Academy programme, guiding our team of experts and our super-talented students. I’m the connection between the product and the design, and also contribute to the curriculum and design process. Plus, I’m in charge of dad jokes.

What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do similar work?
In design, it all starts and ends with passion. If you don’t love what you do, it will be present in your work. Try to fulfil your desires and dreams, instead of just meeting the needs of your clients or supervisors.

What do you recommend for a hit of inspiration?
An image that I recommend is Stefan Sagmeister's Body Poster. I was initially shocked by this; it was the first time it hit me that design can be a way of life. If a person is so dedicated that they use their own body as a medium, then everything goes! The concept is sometimes stronger than the final result, so it’s important to always experiment and test new things.

Plus, an Instagram account I recommend is Subway Creatures. It’s a true source of inspiration for me and an amazing place for wired, awkward stuff!

Eli Zappa, Templates Team lead

How would you describe your role at Wix?
In terms of my daily job at Wix, I’m a content designer and mentor, and at the moment I lead the templates team. My goal is to create quality web design experiences that users can customise, to make it their own.

As part of the Wix Playground Academy, I lead the first week of the personal portfolio project. I do a presentation with tips about how to create a personal portfolio website and then kick off the first task. After that, I mentor the students alongside my colleagues.

Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work?
I didn't do a degree because I had already landed a job in the industry. I think the most important thing you need is a killer portfolio that shows off your skills, and to remember that it’s not about quantity but about quality. A few strong works can be better than 15 works that aren’t your best.

What do you recommend as a source of inspiration?
Definitely Vincent Schwenk; a master in his field and great 3D artist – I love his creations!

Vuong Tong, Head of Wix Playground Academy

How would you describe your role at Wix?
I oversee the web-design programming for the Wix Playground Academy and build relationships with top design schools and designers from around the world, in order to create opportunities for collaboration. Basically, I work with design students to show off their talent and work.

What recent projects are you most proud of?
I am especially proud of the relationships we’ve built over the years with celebrated design communities in both NYC and globally, from It’s Nice That and TypeThursday, to OFFF Festival. Even though the talent never fails to amaze me, I am most impressed by the level of collaboration, and that cool projects are usually just a DM away.

What advice would you give an emerging creative?
Make as many mistakes as you can. It’s the fastest way to learn and get over a fear of trying. It’s funny how often we imagine the worst-case scenario and never the best-case scenarios.

What do you recommend as a source of inspiration?
The New Yorker Cartoons Instagram account delivers the best content. The cartoons are simple yet refreshing and dry. It’s a zeitgeist for contemporary times and palette cleanser for all the TikTok videos I consume.

Hagit Kaufman, VP of design and brand

How would you describe your role at Wix?
I lead a team of over 300 designers who are responsible for every visual aspect of the company: from product design, to marketing campaigns. We do everything in-house and have multidisciplinary teams from illustrators to videographers, motion designers, visual researchers and graphic designers, all top talents in their field.

What recent project are you most proud of?
We just wrapped up our first European programme for Wix Playground Academy and I saw so many fresh, young creatives dedicated to their personal development. It reassured me that the personal mentorship we provide to our students when they are in a transitional point in their creative careers is so valuable to their future success.

What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do similar work?
Work hard; remember to learn new things all the time; put yourself out of your professional comfort zone every once in a while!

What do you recommend as a source of inspiration?
I like to follow Lunch lady for some food and family inspo, as well as Katie Benn for a bit of colour and fun.

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Wix is a Creative Lives in Progress brand partner. Every year, we partner with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Creative Lives a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

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