School Day 1.0

Backpacks, notebooks, and leather shoes in need of a firm breaking-in; even if years are significant since the days when there was a purchase protocol for attending school, the metaphors for tradition are no less vivid.

More than 60 years ago, Silas Rhodes and Burne Hogarth founded the Cartoonists and Illustrators School with three faculty members and 35 students, creating a model whereby faculty were working professionals and courses were held at night. This model allowed students to work during the days, brushing up on professional skills if desired. By blurring boundaries between the profession and academia, the founders set pace for art education going forward. They, simply, started a tradition.

The school changed its name in 1956 to the School of Visual Arts, but the tradition remains unchanged. This blurring of the lines between profession and academia still holds true today — more than 60 years later, SVA is a multi-disciplinary institution with more than 900 faculty members predominantly still professionals in the field.

Incoming student Derek Chan studies the map (drawn by Jeff Kirsch) at orientation. Map courtesy of Kicker Studio.

Today, we added to this tradition the new MFA in Interaction Design program — a graduate-level program at the School of Visual Arts with 18 graduate students and 25 faculty members.

An article that will be published in the September issue of Interactions Magazine by Alex Wright (full disclosure: Alex is also on the faculty), reviews the following about the curriculum:

The SVA curriculum tries to give students a grounding in design fundamentals, while helping them cultivate the soft skills so often required in the modern workplace: strategic thinking, entrepreneurship, ethics, and communicating with clients. “Designers need to be rhetoricians, able to articulate the value of their work,” says Danzico. They must also be “improvisers” who can work with emerging paradigms like gesture, physical computing, and other still-emerging forms.

To that end, design is what we’ve come this far to do, and what we’ll carry forward after we leave. The pursuit of it involves unique skills crucial to shaping experiences and creating lasting value in our society.

I’m looking forward to watching this group build on their skills over the next couple of years — and our program both carrying forward a tradition and charting some new ones of our own.