j.Charles Walker attended Bellevue High School, Bellevue, Kentucky beginning in 1952, and graduating in 1956. Hired by Kent State University’s School of Art in 1964, at the age of 24, holding a B.S. degree in Advertising Design from the University of Cincinnati, School of Applied Arts, (1956-1961), and the terminal M.F.A. degree in Advertising, Graphic Design from the University of Kansas, Department of Design, (1961-1964), j.Charles Walker was its first full-time Instructor of Graphic Design. Walker was elected Coordinator of the Division of Design & Crafts by the Division’s faculty in the Summer of 1972. In 1977, he orchestrated the separation of the crafts into their own division. The graphic design and illustration program became the Division of Design. In 1993, the division was again renamed, the Division of Visual Communication Design accompanied by a complete revision of the curriculum. The program was reformed as an innovative 3-degree major: a 4 year B.A., 4.5 year B.F.A. and unique combined 5 year B.S./M.A or 6 year B.S./M.F.A. The B.F.A and combined M.A. or M.F.A. degrees required one of three concentrations: 2D Graphic Design, 3D Graphic Design or Illustration. Two additional VCD concentrations were organized by Walker before his retirement in 2004 to be added for the 2005-2006 academic year: the B.S. degree in Photo Illustration was transferred from the School of Journalism & Mass Communication to the VCD School, the degree dissolved and reorganized as a concentration, and a Digital Concentration was developed and organized to be added academic year 2005-2006. Additionally, a jointly taught minor shared between the Department of Computer Science and VCD was approved and was available for 2004-2005 academic year.
During his 40 year career at Kent State University, 38 as head of the graphic design/illustration program, then Division Coordinator, Walker created a number of special programs which enhanced the national reputation of the School. In 1973 he created GLYPHIX, an award-winning student design studio; the Kent Summer in Switzerland Program (1974-1991); the Kent Summer in Italy (1982-1984); and the Kent & Pentagram Summer in England workshops (1981-1985). These early programs were the forerunners of the later highly successful Kent VCD & KSUCDA summer workshops which were created in 1986. Co-sponsored by the University & College Designers Association (UCDA), these programs were primarily developed for practicing professional designers although they were open to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students. In 1989 the Visual Communication Design Program was awarded an Ohio Board of Regents Academic Challenge Grant of $780,000. The grant, co-authored by Professor Walker, one of only twenty proposals selected from over 100, was given to the graphic design program by the State of Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Board of Regents for its outstanding quality. An article on the Kent State Graphic Design Program was published in the June 1990 issue of NOVUM gebrauchsgraphik. The following Spring, the Graphic Design/Illustration program’s GLYPHIX, (one of only 40 programs selected from 120 applications from Colleges and Universities throughout the State of Ohio) received a $149,000 Program Excellence Grant from the Board of Regents, Governor and State Legislature of Ohio. The grant was co-authored by j.Charles Walker and his colleague John Brett Buchanan, who was in charge of GLYPHIX.
Fulfilling his 35+ year career vision and goal, he had orchestrated and structured a simple Graphic Design/ Illustration program with three courses and 25 or so students into a stand-alone school. In July 2002, VCD was formally separated from the School of Art and the College of Fine & Professional Arts, becoming the School of Visual Communication Design, combining with the Schools of Journalism & Mass Communication, Communication Studies and Library and Information Science into a new College of Communication and Information. Walker was named Acting Director of the new School for academic year 2002-2003 and for academic year 2003-2004 he was named the first Director of the School of Visual Communication Design. With over 500 undergraduate and 35 graduate majors, 15 full-time, 8 part-time faculty, and 5 graduate teaching assistants, the VCD School is the fourth largest single discipline major at Kent State University, the largest program of its kind in the state of Ohio and one of the largest in the U.S.
Walker was involved as a “professional” graphic designer for most of his 40 year design education career, winning more than 100 international, national and regional awards. His work has been selected for inclusion in nearly every major design competition and/or published in every design periodical or graphic design annual in the field. Walker, a long time member (1976 to the present) of UCDA, an international professional graphic design organization, held the offices of vice president, then president. As president he wrote UCDA’s first constitution, developing a working Board of Directors, becoming the first chair. In 2002 he was presented with the UCDA Award, the highest honor and distinction given by UCDA “to individuals who have given much and have shown outstanding support for the organization.” A long time member of the prestigious 100+ year old professional organization AIGA, Walker was awarded the Cleveland chapter’s AIGA FELLOW AWARD in 2003. Only the third person from the Cleveland chapter and the 36th person nationally selected to receive the honor, the award was presented for 40 years experience in teaching and administration. The Award stated: “He is without peer as an educator in our geographical area and has made significant contributions to the regional design community—having advanced excellence in graphic design as a discipline, profession and cultural force.”
j.Charles Walker retired from Kent State University July 1, 2004, but has continued his involvement in UCDA.