Academics

Experimental And Foundation Studies

Freshman drawing in sketchbook lying on the floor

Based on the philosophy that all first-year undergraduate students benefit from a shared understanding of RISD’s approach to studio learning, freshmen follow the same studio curricula—known together as Experimental and Foundation Studies. Each of the three programs of study meets one full day per week, with students expected to work on an ongoing series of challenging assignments outside of class time. Faculty work closely with students, offering ongoing guidance and feedback. Group critiques provide important opportunities for students to present their own work and support that of their peers.

Three core studios

Drawing

At RISD students pursue drawing as both a powerful way to investigate the world and an essential activity intrinsic to art and design practice. The studio becomes a laboratory of varied and challenging activities in which to investigate materiality, imagined situations, idea generation and the translation of the observable world.

Design

In this studio, students explore how to organize visual and other sensory elements in order to understand perceptual attributes and convey meaningful messages through objects, spaces and experiences.

Spatial Dynamics

This studio-based inquiry into physical, spatial and temporal phenomena considers force—the consequence of energy—and its effect on structure. Students explore physical, spatial and temporal phenomena through a range of analog and digital processes.

In the studio

Faculty members work closely with students, emphasizing rigorous critical inquiry and independent learning while offering ongoing guidance and feedback. Projects are designed to encourage exploration, questioning and risk-taking. At the end of each project, critiques are held so that students can discuss their intentions and processes, and reflect on the capacity of the work to embody ideas and emotions.

Featured stories

Decolonizing Pedagogies at RISD

Faculty, curators and librarians come together for a semester-long seminar on decolonization that builds on the institution’s commitment to advancing social equity and inclusion.

New Teaching Talent on Tap

RISD welcomes new full-time faculty members in Experimental and Foundation Studies, Fine Arts, and Architecture and Design.

Dedicated to Process

An expansive exhibition at Woods-Gerry focuses on the inquiry at the heart of the first-year Experimental and Foundation Studies program.

Student work

Floating head created through light projection

In encouraging students to combine and compare disciplines through their work, EFS offers a multidisciplinary approach to learning fundamental concepts in studio production while emphasizing process, experimentation and critical thinking and making skills.

Student cutting wood in studio