Experimental and Foundation Studies

Freshman drawing in sketchbook lying on the floor

At RISD we believe that all undergrads benefit from a shared understanding of our approach to studio learning. This is why first-year students follow the same studio curriculum—known here as Experimental and Foundation Studies. Each of the three programs of study—Drawing, Design and Spatial Dynamics—meets one full day per week, with faculty working closely with you to offer ongoing guidance and feedback. Through group critiques, you’ll present your work and support that of your peers.

Three core studios


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.


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.

Interdisciplinary concentrations offered through EFS

Computation, Technology and Culture (CTC)

CTC integrates instruction in writing programming languages with critical, historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding the technologies that shape society and culture, giving students opportunities to incorporate digital technologies into art and design practices.


This concentration offers a way of engaging deeply with the notion of drawing as speculation. Highlighting the discipline’s connection to innovation and discovery, it encourages students to see drawing as both integral to all of art and design, and as a medium for creating resolved works of art.

Featured stories

Expanding Pedagogical Perspectives

RISD welcomes 13 new full-time faculty members, including a second cohort of Race in Art & Design hires.

Five Questions: Mariela Yeregui

A brief interview with RISD’s recently hired Schiller Family Associate Professor in Race in Art and Design.

Designing with Living Systems

New Assistant Professor Katia Zolotovsky shares her passion for biodesign with RISD students.

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