Highly experimental and individualized, the graduate program in Furniture Design supports each student’s artistic development and articulation of an individual design philosophy through the conception, design and construction of furniture and related objects. The work produced ranges from one-of-a-kind objects, to designs for limited or mass production, to experimental, conceptually based projects. Aesthetic considerations in conjunction with a fluent use of materials and processes to support individual design concepts are paramount.
Additionally, we offer a few qualified students a three-year course of study path, where they attend RISD as a graduate student in a preparatory year utilizing a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in preparation for beginning the two-year MFA curriculum and their thesis work. Faculty are able to advise at interview on the most appropriate track for applicants.
Graduates of the MFA programs are prepared to:
• effectively use a combination of two- and
three-dimensional concept development skills to complete full-size human-scale
design prototypes for furniture and related objects
• critique and communicate contextual, conceptual and
technical content through visual, written and spoken means
• communicate specific designs in detail to allow for
manufacture by others
• relate design concepts and physical prototypes to a
defined context and make an individual contribution to the discipline of
Faculty members work closely with approximately 15 graduate students and 75 undergraduates in the department. The graduate program attracts students from all over the world with very diverse backgrounds, but who are clearly prepared for advanced research in art and design. A three-year program is available for applicants without prior studio/making skills, while those in the two-year program work together in an integrated course of study.
Graduate students work in the department’s well-equipped studios and shops, and also take advantage of the rich manufacturing resources in the region. In addition to studio work, graduate seminars offer an opportunity to explore contemporary theory and broaden awareness of relevant issues. All work is refined through numerous reviews and critiques with faculty, students and invited guest critics. Grad students welcome opportunities to participate in sponsored research studios and departmental exhibitions at venues such as Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York.
Tyson Atwell MFA 2012
Brendan Keim MFA 2012
Chen Liu MFA 2013
Mckenzie Veal MFA 2013
Taylor Colantonio MFA 2013
Brandon Walker MFA 2014
Andrew Kopp MFA 2011
Simon Lowe MFA 2013
Elish Warlop MFA 2013
Andrea Parikh MFA 2014
“Our program is expanding and becoming the destination of choice for a broad creative study experience founded upon critical making, design thinking and applied design in multiple fields. Students are currently working on self-determined areas ranging from furniture, products and lighting to spatial, science and exhibit design, to curatorial, public and construction projects, to other areas of inquiry. In other words, the department embraces work in a broad arena – making objects and structures that directly connect with human-scale experience.”
During the first year, students are exposed to a variety of conceptual approaches to furniture and encouraged to expand their thinking, redefining functional and aesthetic considerations through design, material and making investigations. The curriculum challenges students to question their perception of furniture design, examine the changing role of objects in relation to culture and prompt inquiry into their own design philosophy and contribution to the field. The second year is focused on developing a thesis body of work (see below).
MFA candidates produce a final body of work and accompanying written thesis as an articulation of the graduate process, simultaneously aiding self-definition and demonstrating a personal point of view. MFA candidates are also required to mount a professional solo exhibition. Their personally selected thesis committee assists in developing a timeline for the exhibition based on assessments of each student’s proposal and progress. In addition, graduating students exhibit in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held annually.
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