James Hall giving a lecture about PARK Academy design leadership programs

News|General|27 Sep 2023

Q&A with James Hall, London lead, PARK Academy Design Leadership programme

We caught up with James Hall as we announce a London intake of PARK Academy Design Leadership Programme.

Q – How did the PARK Academy Design Leadership programme come about?

The actual first ever Park Academy programme was a pilot for LEGO Design Academy. LEGO had been a client of PARK for seven years at that point, and the request came from LEGO to Park for in-house training to level up the design leads. They needed an in-house programme for their professional design leads and design managers that was a combination of training while working so that they were able to level up over a period of time. So PARK developed a bespoke program of 10 key modules that were required to build design capability and design as a core competence at LEGO.

The pilot programme was a real success and in 2011 PARK launched the Design Leadership Programme, which was called Grow at the time, externally for both cross company and in-company clients. And today there are over 2200+ alumni around the globe.

Q – What is unique about the PARK Academy programme?

It has been designed for working design professionals so it can fit around students full time role. All of the assignments are work based using PARK proprietary tools and frameworks. All our tutors are consultants too, and we have a dual Management and Leadership focus.

I think what is really unique is that you are able to do assignments that can be then applied in your day-to-day work. So, while you are learning through the assignments, you actually apply and test the learning in your normal work environment. Topics like design briefing, design quality or creating a new design process that you are already doing your day-to-day work, and all of a sudden, you have industry best practice frameworks and 10 proprietary tools to use at the right time with peers, managers and other stakeholders. And that’s pretty powerful. And of course, there is one-to-one coaching with all the modules so that really builds confidence and accelerates capability building in teams.

There is also a peer-to-peer learning aspect, you are in a room with other like-minded people from other industries. It could be in somebody from health-tech, somebody in the world of design in automotive, somebody in FMCG. So, this cross-industry awareness of other design managers and leaders discussing both common and diverse challenges is always fascinating to see. And as tutors we facilitate that cross dialogue during the learning experience. That is a huge value to participants, and they go back to their organisations and implement the frameworks and tools and meet up again in six weeks’ time and the peer-to-peer conversations continue, and they build supportive relationships over a period of time with a regular cadence over 10 months. There is a unique bond that is build up over the course of the programme, and then that extends to the global alumni network after the programme.

Q – How has the programme evolved over the years?

The core of the Design Leadership programme, the fundamental principles are the same, but the case studies are regularly updated, and the tools have all evolved because we use them in our consulting practice with clients. The main development is in how we deliver the programme now – there are options to choose the mix of modules depending on the design maturity of the team or organisation when we deliver in company for example. We also tailor customised programmes for in-company now, and our cross-company programmes are a combination of in-person and online delivery, but it is always live participatory training. We have also added a number of new modules to meet the evolving demands for new skills and training. Our two most in demand additional modules presently are Design Teams and Design for Humanity – our sustainability and circular economy module to address the UNSDG’s.

Q – What is the typical profile of PARK Academy participants, and what is their journey like during and after the programme?

Typically participants are design professionals who are on a journey, who wants to progress either from senior designer to manager, or manager to director or higher, either way, they see the value in managing design better and leading design better and they want to upskill and build their capabilities in management and leadership, as well as level up on best practices and a broader tool kit on processes, strategy etc. So, depending on their level, they will have different specific needs, and again this is where the one-to-one coaching delivers real value to participants.



James Hall is a director of PARK and leads PARK Academy Design Leadership programmes. With a degree in industrial and product design, James had a depth of corporate design experience directing, managing, and leading design in roles including acting Vice President of Design at Hasbro, and Senior Design Director at LEGO.

London PARK Academy Design Leadership programme, November 2023 is now open for applications.

Join an information session

Request a brochure

Find out more – book a call – info@park.bz

Please rotate to portrait