Furniture Design


  • MFA | two- + three-year programs

    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.

  • Learning Outcomes

    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 furniture design

  • Inspiring Community

    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.

  • Learning Environment

    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.

  • Lothar Windels | graduate program director

    “Our graduate program in Furniture Design is the destination of choice for students looking for comprehensive creative study experience focused on critical making, design thinking and applied design. Students work on self-determined projects ranging from furniture, products and lighting to installations and exhibitions. Our graduate program embraces work in a broad arena – focusing on full-scale objects that directly connect with human experiences.”

  • Curriculum

    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 first year

    • Fall
    • Graduate Furniture Design I
    • Graduate seminar
    • Elective
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Graduate Furniture Design II
    • Graduate Furniture Design seminar

    MFA second year

    • Fall
    • Graduate Furniture Design III
    • Graduate seminar
    • Graduate Furniture Design Thesis seminar
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Graduate Furniture Design Thesis
    • Elective

  • Thesis Project

    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.

  • Application Requirements

    1. application form + fee
    2. academic transcripts
    3. 3 letters of recommendation
    4. portfolio of work
    5. statement of purpose
    6. TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)
      • We welcome applications from adventurous and independent creative individuals interested in joining our community and working with our experienced, highly skilled faculty and staff in RISD’s exceptional facilities. The faculty selection committee in Furniture Design is looking for evidence of the ability and preparedness to undertake graduate-level work. Portfolios should be professionally and concisely presented using only the highest quality representation of work that best represents your abilities, along with the breadth of your design and creative thinking.
      • For more information or to begin the application process, visit the Apply page.