The latest in a series of one-on-one conversations with SVA department chairs.
Richard Wilde has been sharing his expertise on the art of visual communication with students at SVA for over 40 years. Hired by SVA founder Silas H. Rhodes to chair the Advertising Department in 1971, Wilde went on to found the College’s Graphic Design Department in 1974 and today chairs the combined BFA Advertising and Graphic Design Department. Author of the widely-used design textbook Visual Literacy, Wilde is a Hall of Fame laureate of the Art Directors Club (ADC) and has won over 200 professional awards, including gold medals from ADC, AIGA, Creativity, The One Show and the Society of Illustrators as well as an International ANDY Award and CLIO Award. Wilde spoke to the Briefs recently about what he’s learned from his students over the years and how his program prepares them for careers in the rapidly changing field of advertising and graphic design.
How does teaching influence your work outside of SVA and vice versa?
If teaching is done effectively, it equally benefits both the student and instructor in a most nourishing way. The real secret in teaching is to find a way to have students touch their passion, which in turn gives the extraordinary benefit of enlivening my own passion. I feel lucky to have 150 students per semester in my sophomore Visual Literacy studio course, where I review over 2,000 solutions a week and where I’m continually surprised, challenged and fed. In turn, my wish is that all of my 140-plus faculty have the same experience.
What impresses you most about your students?
What impresses me most is the dedication of each student and how they grapple with the conditions of “being in the unknown,” which sets them back on their heels because there are no existing answers for any of the given assignments. Students find themselves in a most precarious position and must work innovatively toward finding a true voice of expression. What begins as an uncomfortable situation eventually leads to finding one’s inner calling (or at least this is the goal). Some students, who have made an essential connection to their work, spend as much as 20 hours a week on homework for my class alone.
What sort of changes have you seen in the field of advertising and graphic design over the years?
The definition of the field of advertising and graphic design has now greatly expanded. Upon entering the job market, one has to not only exhibit expertise in conceptual problem solving and have a high level of executional skills, but also must possess an in-depth understanding of typographic design, interactive design and time-based media in addition to embracing the dynamics of social media. This represents an entirely new frontier for our graduates.
How does the BFA Advertising and Graphic Design Department prepare students for their professional lives post-SVA?
The department is dedicated to preparing students to have careers for the next 50 years. This is accomplished by putting the emphasis on a conceptual approach toward solving visual communication problems (which is an extremely difficult undertaking). Original thinking is the very ingredient that can sustain a career. This approach, coupled with a love of the craft and knowledge of critical executional skills, helps to maximize the effectiveness of their ideas.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Images: (top) Richard Wilde illustration by Hanoch Piven. (bottom) The Map Project: Please transform the map of the world by making it into a social, personal or political statement.