MFA | 2-year program

Digital + Media places technology—as both a creative medium and a cultural-historical phenomenon—at the center of the graduate program. Within this context, the department encourages students to explore diverse subject matter and develop multidisciplinary research methodologies and creative strategies (analog or digital) to interrogate the social, psychological and cultural consequences of ubiquitous or emerging technologies. A strong conceptual approach to research and making helps students develop socially engaged artistic practices.

Informed by the fields of art, media theory, cultural studies and the social sciences, the flexible curriculum includes research studios, seminars and innovative electives that support a deep investigation of critical and social theory while fostering robust, independent studio practices. Faculty also encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through partnerships with other researchers at RISD and Brown University, as well as with individuals and institutions that typically operate outside the world of art and design.

MFA first year

Digital Media Perspectives
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar I
Digital + Media Studio Elective
Open Elective
Digital + Media Theory
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar II
Digital + Media Studio Elective

MFA second year

Digital + Media Writing Preparation
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar III
Open Elective
Digital + Media Writing
Thesis Project
Open Elective

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • develop a thorough understanding of a range of technologies, including their material capabilities and characteristics, appropriateness for specific strategic applications, relevance within larger systems and impact on people and society
  • demonstrate proficiency with a vocabulary of multiple material practices
  • exhibit fluency in history, theory and criticism with respect to art, technology and new media practice
  • organize teams and work collaboratively with people from a range of disciplines
  • present work professionally through exhibitions, publications and other relevant contexts
  • communicate cogently about their ongoing studio art process
  • demonstrate effective writing skills as part of or in support of artistic practice
  • contribute to the ongoing dialogue about research and new work in the field

Creative culture

Each year Digital + Media admits a talented and mature cohort of approximately 12 graduate students from a variety of fields including art, computing, literature, science, anthropology and more. Semesters are punctuated by ongoing conversations with a team of accomplished faculty from such specializations as sound art, sculpture, media theory, glass and narrative design, as well as lectures and opportunities to collaborate with a diverse set of visiting critics, artists, researchers and academics.

In dialogue with faculty, D+M students chart a tailored course of study that defines their personal and collaborative approaches to practice. They are also heavily involved in determining which distinguished visitors to invite, and drive the annual focus of department-sponsored Research Studios. Students can also opt to take a wide range of courses at Brown and enjoy access to the university's many research libraries along with resources in the larger community like the historic Providence Athenaeum and the Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center, among others.

Extended learning

In combination with coursework, students may assist in faculty research and develop skills through technical assistantships. The college also provides opportunities to explore exhibition and curatorial opportunities through RISD's Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery and other spaces in and around Providence. Internal funding opportunities such as the Graduate Studies Grant and the Maharam STEAM Fellowship support new or developing work and extended, professional research practice. During Wintersession second-year graduate students in D+M may apply to teach a course of their own design to gain valuable experience in the field.

RISD Careers also hosts professional networking events such as the annual Design Portfolio Review and a separate Fine Arts Portfolio Review, and offers students and alumni individual advising on grants, residencies, entrepreneurship, Fulbright applications and more.

Thesis project

Building on an independently directed body of research, D+M students in the second year of the program develop new, leading-edge approaches to sustainable artistic practice. Working with a thesis committee, MFA candidates integrate conceptual and technical skills in order to articulate a polished, intellectually robust thesis project. D+M thesis projects take a variety of forms including experimental games, performance, video installation, interactive sculpture, speculative design and more. All graduate students publish a thesis book and participate in the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

Application requirements

  1. Application form

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60.

  2. Academic transcripts

    Initially, you must provide unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and/or graduate study indicating satisfactory completion, or evidence of anticipated completion, of an undergraduate degree program from an accredited college or university. You can upload your unofficial transcripts within the RISD Applicant Portal. If your academic credentials are prepared in a language other than English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator before submitting. Enrolling students will later be required to submit official transcripts.

  3. Portfolio

    Graduate applicants are required to submit 10–20 examples of visual work, with certain programs suggesting more specific ideas or portfolio requirements (see below).

    Include your portfolio images within your application.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Your portfolio should contain 10 samples total, which can be a combination of images and videos. You may submit up to 5 videos, with a total run time of no more than five minutes for all videos combined. Please do not submit multi-page PDF files. Each sample should be accompanied by text identifying the medium and year, and a four-sentence description explaining the concepts that inform your work and is no more than 50 words. If collaborative projects are presented, you must clearly identify your individual contribution.

    Furniture Design | In the MFA programs, students make their own work as part of learning from, and with, materials. This applies to tests and models as well as to full-size objects at human scale. Material experimentation includes traditional, new and hybrid materials as appropriate to individual student interests.

    In addition to your portfolio materials uploaded to Slideroom, we invite you to include a self-made video no more than 20 seconds duration of you making something. We are not looking for video with professional production values; we are interested in seeing you making something – small, large, modest or complex, any making action can work, the choice is yours. This is an option you might enjoy adding to your submission for us to learn more about your interests. Finally, please title your video.

    Landscape Architecture | All applicants to the Master's of Landscape Architecture degree programs are required to submit a portfolio and an additional video essay. Your portfolio should contain 10 individually produced and carefully chosen images of work that reflects your interests in landscape and the discipline of landscape architecture. Applicants to the MLA-1 program who have no prior design training may include photographs, sketches or written work that conveys their ability to observe, identify and explore spatial conditions within the landscape. All other applicants should include a selection of work that best represents the development of their interest in this field of study. All work should be labeled to indicate if it is academic, professional or personal. If team projects are presented, your individual contribution must be clearly identified. The portfolio should include a minimal amount of text.

    Prepare a short video of yourself telling us:

    • The most important reason you are motivated to study landscape architecture
    • At least one goal you hope to achieve in your graduate education
    • Why you think RISD is the best place to achieve your goals

    You are encouraged to be authentic and heartfelt in your response. This essay will function as the beginning of a conversation you will continue to have if you enter the program at RISD and it does not have to be the same information provided in your written essay. Cell phone videos are accepted as well. Maximum length: 2 minutes.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Your portfolio should consist of 20 images exhibiting the depth and breadth of your studio experience. Ten images should represent work that reflects your investigations within a single medium; seven images should represent your confidence in handling a variety of media; and three images need to be samples of drawings.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a portfolio of 20 images that most clearly represent your creative practice as an artist or designer.

  4. Statement of purpose

    Graduate applicants must submit a written statement (500–750 words) outlining their interest and goals in pursuing graduate study. Several programs suggest more specific ideas or written requirements as outlined below.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Within the statement of purpose, the committee seeks a clear explanation of the applicant’s goals for both their time in school and afterwards, and how the MFA in Digital + Media is specifically suited to support these goals. This statement should address the following questions: what are you interested in exploring conceptually? What outcomes do you hope to get from the degree? Where do you see yourself after graduation? In addition to the statement of purpose, applicants should outline their working methodology or practice from initial research to project realization.

    Landscape Architecture | Your essay should describe how your interest in landscape developed, how the work in your portfolio is indicative of that development and why the landscape architecture program at RISD seems well suited to your goals.

    Photography | In addition to a statement of purpose, applicants should send an artist’s statement describing the work included in their portfolio. In other words, the artist’s statement should be about the work submitted, while the statement of purpose should address why you are seeking a graduate degree.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Submit a statement describing your work as an artist or designer. What is it about? How do you feel your academic, studio or work experience prepares you for entry to a graduate teacher education program? Discuss how, in your opinion, the quality of an educator’s artistic practice contributes to high-quality arts learning for children and youth. Since the significance of arts education in K–12 schools is not universally recognized, please provide a succinct argument for including the visual arts as a required core subject for all students at this level.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a written statement (500–750 words) describing your interest in pursuing the MA. Describe how you might customize a program of study that maximizes the resources of RISD, Brown and the city in support of your particular interest in art and design education. In what ways do you, at this time, anticipate that earning an MA will advance your professional development and career aspirations?

  5. Letters of recommendation

    Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential for graduate study. You may invite your recommenders to upload their letters through your Applicant Portal. If your recommenders are unable to submit using this method, their letters may be emailed to or mailed to the Graduate Admissions Office.

  6. Tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on either test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS. The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who are enrolled in an institution where English is the language of instruction.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take six weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency.

    Graduate Record Exam (GRE) | Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required, but MA, MAT and MLA candidates are encouraged to submit their scores.

  7. Digital + Media specific requirements

  8. Additional portfolio instructions

    The selection committee in Digital + Media is looking for evidence of the ability and preparedness to undertake graduate-level work. The department seeks applicants with a strong, research-based creative practice. Portfolios should be presented using the work that best represents your abilities, along with your desire to push boundaries and experiment. Applications will be judged primarily on conceptual integrity; there are no technical or computing requirements for entry into Digital + Media.


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