Experimental and Foundation Studies


  • First-Year Students

    Experimental and Foundation Studies studios are built around a series of assignments and critiques in which students are encouraged to think deductively and intuitively, and to investigate the potential of disparate materials as they take projects from concept to completion. Faculty members lead group critiques — both during the process and at the end of each project — but critical dialogue among students is also important in helping their work reach its full potential.

  • Core Studios

    Drawing  In this weekly full-day studio, students learn to meld ideas and observational skills while gaining fluency in using drawing as a means of conceptual visualization. Intensive work with the human figure, landscape, still life and thematic content allows for the exploration of form as it pertains to visual representation and the organization of surface through line, shape, light, texture and space. In strengthening drawing abilities, students learn to see differently and be better prepared to enter a chosen major as a sophomore. 

    Design  In this intensive studio, both traditional and digital media are used to explore the two-dimensional plane-including formal issues of pattern, rhythm, figure-ground, the effect of line, relative size, light and shade, texture and color. Logic, intuition and emotion all play vital roles as students learn to frame questions, solve problems and realize satisfying projects from concept to completion. 

    Spatial Dynamics  In the 3D studio, freshmen focus on objects in time and space, and on form as it occurs in nature, architecture and sculpture. Working with hand tools and basic materials such as paper, wood, clay, plaster and found objects, students explore the relationship between mass, volume and plane, and learn to think deductively and intuitively.


  • First-Year Curriculum

    All first-year students are assigned to a section of approximately 20 students who attend the three studio classes together throughout fall semester. Groups are reconstituted going into spring semester so that students work with a different mix of peers during the last half of the year.

    During Wintersession — an intensive, five-week session between fall and spring semesters — students are encouraged to select an on-campus course related to their intended major or to select another Liberal Arts or studio course of interest, choosing from classes in all disciplines and available to upperclass and graduate students.

    First Year

    • Fall
    • Drawing I
    • Design I
    • Spatial Dyanmics I
    • Literature seminar: Design in Words
    • History of Art and Visual Culture I
    • Wintersession
    • Non-major studio elective
    • Spring
    • Drawing II
    • Design II
    • Spatial Dynamics II
    • Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
    • History of Art and Visual Culture II

  • Transfer Students

    Most transfer students are required to attend the Summer Experimental and Foundation Studies (EFS) Program, a six-week immersion in RISD’s approach to studio learning. The program is taught by EFS faculty and offers the same three studios as in the foundation year: Drawing, Design and Spatial Dynamics. Each studio session meets one and a half days a week for a total of 10 hours per course — or 30 hours overall. Successful completion of the program earns students nine of the 18 required credits in Experimental and Foundation Studies. Students find the program to be an excellent transition to RISD, helping to strengthen their confidence as makers and reinforce critical thinking and making capabilities.