With an imposing build, intimidating stature and a glare that is both confident and caring, Antoine Savolainen willingly admits to his personality. At 47 the founder and director of Rhino Universal based in Geneva and Paris is back at school. It's a way to regenerate, "to regain the freshness of when you're starting out" by getting back to basics. "It's like walking in nature ..." says the brilliant yet pragmatic director of the new Bachelor's programs in Interactive Design and Communication Design.
This creative mind, which has won numerous international awards, is no stranger to standing before a classroom. In 1998 he established the first multimedia designer program recognized in French-speaking Switzerland at the School of Media and Art in Fribourg (Emaf), an institution which he co-founded and where he taught for four years while also filling the role of vice director.
He leads from experience using the development of his own communications agency as a practical example. Once he has reached his limit, the need to recharge takes over. He then looks to Nepal, Africa and many countries in Europe for a sabbatical year.
The idea of including "personal time" in his students' schedules comes from this experience. "If you're running on empty, you're not creative. You have to learn to save some time for yourself," he says. The other crucial aspect he imparts to his students is the relationship with the subject matter. Before working on computer skills, they must learn to hold a pencil, to paint, to master the vanishing point and work on space. "The creative mind is an emotional transmitter. It must know how to interact with matter, how to touch and how to feel," explains the man who also has a long and distinguished career in illustration. "Using a screen as the only creative output point kills emotion. Talking to your children on Skype is good, but it will never replace the emotions of seeing, touching and smelling them. Why should it be different with creativity?"
Antoine Savolainen considers this back to basics approach as essential to better anticipate the future. The future is already digital and will be even more so tomorrow. Creative professions are evolving. They are crossing over. Education must follow so that the 3.0 artistic directors have a global vision of communications and marketing.
What does he look for in his students? They must be open-minded and free-spirited with creative sensitivity and the ability to question art, design and communications... not to mention the ability to develop a personal visual culture and teach themselves to always see better than others.