The 16 minute short The Wilde Ones is a celebration of Richard Wilde, the longtime head of the Advertising and Graphic Design Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and evidently a giant in the history of graphic design. It consists primarily of interviews with co-workers, including many still on the faculty of his department.
They talk a little bit about Wilde, a little bit about the sorts of assignments he and they give in their classes, and a little bit about graphic design in general. There’s really nothing explicitly about advertising, such as the ethical questions of whether one’s talents in graphic design should be used to manipulate consumer preferences and decisions to benefit whichever capitalist happens to hire you. (Imagine a Getting Everyone to Love the State and Sacrifice Themselves for Dear Leader and Graphic Design Department in North Korea.)
I came to the film with no background knowledge of the subject matter, and for the most part it didn’t draw me in. What I probably found most interesting were some of the “outside the box” assignments they give their students. I like the way they try to come up with creative ways to get their students to think and see differently from what they’re used to.
But really The Wilde Ones just seemed too short and superficial to take me anywhere or teach me anything. I didn’t come away from it with more than a minimal sense of who Wilde is or why he matters, nor can I say I have more understanding of graphic design now. There’s just not that much to the film.
Which is not to say I would have loved an hour and a half of this instead. There’s a good chance I would have been at least as bored, just for a lot longer period. But maybe not. The point is at least in that case the material would have had a fair chance to engage me. I could have found out if Richard Wilde and graphic design are topics that can be made interesting to me.
But as it is, this is one I just kind of shrug off. I think this would be appealing if you’re already a fan of Wilde and would appreciate a celebration of his life and work, but I doubt it would be if you need more of an introduction to the topic.
The animation at the beginning and end is kind of cool I suppose.