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RISD Academic Department Profiles

Apparel AP / Architecture AR / Ceramics CR / Digital Media D+M / Film Animation Video FAV / Furniture FD / Graphic Design GD / Glass GL / Interior Architecture IA / Industrial Design ID / Illustration IL / Jewelry + Metalsmithing J+M / Landscape Architecture LA / Photography PH / Printmaking PR / Painting PT / Sculpture SC / Textiles TX

Apparel Design

RISD’s Apparel Design Department gives students the confidence and expertise to stand out as designers by stretching and developing their own vision, and having the technical skills needed to express their ideas. Students learn pattern drafting, draping and construction, along with how to use high-end industry software for designing and rendering apparel. Students are pushed to experiment with concept, form, and materials as often as possible to contribute new and unique ideas to the industry.



The Architecture Department is unique among its peers because the values of our student designers set us apart; they think critically; design through inquiry, reflection and invention; understand spatial cognition; directly experience construction; understand the technical demands of building; think through drawing, making, writing and speaking – and are socially, sustainably and ethically responsible. While history, theory and technical metrics are important and integral parts of the broad education this program provides, they are not the mold for student development. Instead, RISD recognizes and emphasizes the creative process as the generating source of ideas and the means of finding out what students are passionate about and exposing students to the essential nutrients for becoming an autonomous, created and known self, poised to make a difference in the world.



The Ceramics Department provides a rigorous, hands-on investigation of clay and its histories, along with an exploration of contemporary practices and ideas through independent research and experimentation. Students are encouraged to let go, open up and learn to express themselves by mastering a medium that allows them to experiment with a lot of variables – throwing, building, molding, glazing, firing and developing new techniques. Ultimately, the program prepares students to become original and highly skilled artists capable of using their creative talents and spatial design skills in a variety of meaningful ways – from making studio art, to teaching, to making products, prototypes and other 3D objects.


Digital + Media

RISD's Digital + Media Department offers talented, intellectually engaged graduate students the opportunity to investigate innovative approaches to contemporary theory and practice in the digital arts. Structured to promote thought and work that crosses traditional lines between disciplines, the curriculum challenges students to consider non-standard approaches to the computer as a creative and expressive medium. Students use of technology, art and design is balanced with inquiry grounded in conceptual, critical, social, cultural and historical considerations.


Film, Animation, and Video

The FAV Department invites students to explore the time-based art of the moving image by making live action or animated films – or a hybrid of the two. Students formulate the technical, aesthetic and conceptual questions central to creating strong content with a unique voice. Students are encouraged to choose their own path, while they work to hone their creative vision and master the skills and working methods needed to produce meaningful films that will prepare them for a lifetime of making in the art world, the entertainment industry and beyond.


Furniture Design

As one of the few programs of its kind in the country, RISD’s Furniture Design Department offers an intensive immersion in furniture, research and materials, enabling students to investigate the most important questions facing designers and makers today – that is, how to respond to changing technologies, new materials, variable economic conditions and evolving lifestyles. Students combine conceptual depth, philosophy, highly considered aesthetic considerations, and a full range of making and production processes to create works that range from designs for production to one-of-a-kind objects. Student interests in furniture are extremely diverse, covering issues such as demographic and economic shifts, cultural factors, sustainability and new materials, human interaction, and changing methods of marketing, communication, and fabrication leading much current interest.



RISD’s Glass students are pushed to develop their skills in glass blowing, mold making, casting and cold working, leading them to mastery of skill, materials, concepts, and professional practice. At RISD students approach glass as both an artist's material with remarkable expressive range and a studio discipline imbued with limitless potential, incorporating sculpture, architecture, design, craft and decorative art. Students develop a distinctly personal aesthetic through source research, vigorous studio experimentation, regular critiques and a series of graduate seminars on contemporary art theory and criticism.


Graphic Design

RISD's Graphic Design program prepares students for professional practice by emphasizing the role of social context, media and aesthetics in the production of visible language systems. Like the discipline itself, students have a nimble and intelligent response to constant change and burgeoning technology, while they build a strong foundation of formal, aesthetic and analytical knowledge. Students study communications theory, design history, visual form-making, color, systems thinking and information design along with a progression of typography courses, from the anatomy of letterforms to expressive and experimental uses of type.


From painting with pure egg-yolk tempera to creating 3D imagery for computer gaming, the Illustration Department challenges students to work in a wide range of traditional and digital media. Students in Illustration have strong conceptual and image-making skills, developed through the intense classes of the RISD curriculum. By mastering the ability to draw and paint meaningful images, students are well prepared to write and illustrate books, create surface designs for products, work in web or game design, become an animator or character designer, or contribute to the visual design of the world around them through one of the many other creative paths in need of their unique talents.


Industrial Design

Through hands-on studio projects, students learn to work with a wide range of materials and become fluent in the use of spatial language. Students design objects, products, systems and experiences from start to finish – from sketches and developmental drawings, to 3D mock-ups and models, to working prototypes. Students are pushed to consider important technical and aesthetic issues, along with the long-term environmental and social impact of their work. Don’t be fooled by the name; RISD’s Industrial Design Department is about a lot more than the design of commercial products; our students are trained to be innovative and to use creative thinking and the design process itself to make new products or to make already existing products even better.


Interior Architecture

RISD’s Interior Architecture Department is centered on rethinking the life of existing buildings – through design alterations, renovations and adaptive reuse. With a growing interest in green living, RISD’s interior architects develop the vision and skills to give old buildings new life; after all, recycling an entire building instead of demolishing it and constructing a new one is one of the most environmentally sound practices around. Students take advanced design studios that allow for specializations in adaptive reuse along with classes in history, theory, drawing, structures, energy, materials, lighting and technology, all of which ensure a full understanding of professional concerns in the building industry and allied fields.


Jewelry + Metalsmithing

RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing students explore working with a wide range of metals and other materials while learning to execute their ideas with skill and ingenuity. Students graduate with a strong grasp of their own creative power and a solid foundation on which to build a career as a jewelry artist, production designer, metalsmith, teacher, gallery owner – or any number of entrepreneurial pursuits. Whether students are drawn to traditional goldsmithing or compelled to investigate the unconventional, RISD's Jewelry + Metalsmithing program emphasizes rigorous research, experimentation and creative practice to fine-tune each individual’s artistic vision.


Landscape Architecture

RISD's MLA program prepares students to address increasingly complex issues at the interface between the natural and cultural worlds, and to develop innovative design solutions in a range of typologies and scales. Fully accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the program is unique in that the core of the curriculum is the design studio, a forum for investigating aesthetic, ecological, cultural and technological issues. Students are challenged to think critically, work creatively and develop self-reliant design processes as they complement studio work with the study of drawing, history, theory, ecology, cultural geography, plants and technology.



In RISD’s Painting Department, students develop the purpose, direction, confidence and technical skills needed to express their ideas as artists. Professors encourage both the freedom and discipline essential to this process by embracing a wide range of aesthetic attitudes and by emphasizing critical and artistic growth through the evolution of a rigorous studio practice. Our department nurtures each student's potential by fostering strong visual skills, keen critical reasoning and a clear understanding of the historical, analytical and social contexts for their work.



In RISD’s Photography Department, students push the boundaries of the discipline and challenge established ways of seeing as they fully explore how photographic images are made, presented and interpreted. At RISD, photography is seen as an ever-changing set of technical, conceptual and aesthetic conditions that exist within a broad social and cultural context. Beginning with film processing and darkroom printing, students move on to experimenting with digital capture and imaging produced in various forms, including high-end printing, web, installation, book and video projects. Students leave RISD fully able to express their own unique way of seeing the world.



RISD’s Printmaking Department pushes students to explore both traditional and experimental techniques for reproducing their own images, which leads to advanced personal work responsive to the issues defining the field. Students learn to master the nuances of working in intaglio, lithography, screen-print, relief, digital and alternative print methods – all of which are available as a means of finding their own voice and fueling their artistic development. RISD's Printmaking program integrates new approaches to the medium with historical traditions, encouraging individual artistic growth through the exploration of printed multiples.



Since we experience the world three-dimensionally, learning to think and make 3D objects is a fascinating challenge – one that takes focus, technical skill and individual creativity. RISD’s Sculpture students work with every material imaginable – including metal, wood, plastics, computer chips and more – to develop a true understanding of historical and contemporary sculptural issues. Students gain the technical command needed to express their ideas with confidence; they are constantly challenged to push beyond obvious solutions, to think independently and critically, and to grow as unique and inspiring artists.



RISD’s Textiles students have the opportunity to work with breakthrough technologies to master the art of fabric, fiber and pattern, and get a strong grounding in global artistic, social and cultural concerns at the same time. Students work with the high-end equipment used in the field – multiharness handlooms, computer-interfaced looms and an electronic jacquard loom – as they learn to master advanced weaving techniques; both hand-operated and electronic knitting machines allow for further exploration of knitted fabrics. The department also offers a digital textile printer, a fully equipped dye lab, silkscreen studios and a CAD lab with the latest industry software used by professional textile designers and fiber artists, all so that students can develop their own vision and gain an understanding of design and expression in a continually evolving culture.


Teaching + Learning in Art + Design

Teaching + Learning in Art + Design offers an innovative center of inquiry in which graduate students explore, develop and contribute to new practices in art and design teaching within the realm of praxis — in K-12 schools, community arts organizations, art museums, and colleges and universities. At RISD, practice-based studies are enhanced through the department's partnerships with public and independent schools, community-based youth arts organizations, the RISD Museum of Art, regional and national art museums, and Brown University.

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