Friday, December 1, 2023

Wildwood High School’s Graphic Design Program is Growing, 1 Client at a Time

Shown is an interior illustration produced by Saoirse Perez

Shown is an interior illustration produced by Saoirse Perez, a student at Wildwood High School.

By Collin Hall

WILDWOOD – Students at Wildwood High School are honing their graphic design skills thanks to a new program, and they’re taking on real-life clients to do it. 

Right now, graphic design classes are small at Wildwood High – last year’s lessons only had three students. But Susan Ferretti, the graphic design teacher at the school, said that Wildwood High has bolstered the program since she was hired in 2021 with the hope that, eventually, students can take on a bevy of outside clients. 

“They were just looking for an interim art teacher at first,” Ferretti said, “but when the principal and superintendent got to know my background as a graphic design artist, they thought it was time to up their game.” 

The first opportunity for Ferretti’s students to work with an outside client came by happenstance. Joseph Molter, a Sea Isle City local and amateur author, found himself in a real bind: He couldn’t find anyone to illustrate his book. 

“As I was looking for artists to help me produce a cover, people either weren’t interested or the cost was so high that I couldn’t afford it,” he explained.  

He reached out to Ocean City’s graphic design department to no avail. 

“But Wildwood was more than interested – Mrs. Ferretti got me in touch with her three students, and I was able to meet with them at the school to kick some ideas around,” he said. 

Molter, by his own admission, is “no author, but I love to write.”  

He wrote a children’s story, “Joefee and Oakee,” about an oak tree that Molter could see growing rapidly from his upstairs window and an imaginary boy who lives in it. 

Each of the three students produced a cover for his book.  

“Picking one was agonizing – they were all so talented and worked so hard on it,” Molter said.   

Even though he could only pick one cover by then-senior Delancey D’Amico, the other students, Emelyse Collet and Saoirse Perez, contributed to the inside illustrations. 

Their teacher has been a professional graphic design artist for over 35 years. Ferretti laments that opportunities for her students are fewer here on the shore than in other parts of the state, especially when compared to North Jersey, where she spent much of her life. 

“My goal is to turn the program here into an open studio where clients can come and the students can see if this is a career they would like to go into,” she said. 

Because of the financial burden that comes with secondary education in the arts, Ferretti strongly encourages her students to attend community college as a cost-saving measure.  

“Unless my students absolutely know what they want to go to school for, I always encourage that,” she said. 

Despite the challenges that come with the field, she sees a bright future for her students. Nearly every business in the county needs graphic design work, whether that be through menu design, business card creation, or hotel brochures. 

Students at Wildwood High learn the skills it takes to produce those products: They become proficient in programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop before graduation. 

“I want to do anything to get my students experience in the real world,” Ferretti said. “It’s so critical.”  

Are you a local graphic designer? Did you attend Wildwood High’s art program? Email the author at   

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