Academics Furniture Design

Bachelor’s program

BFA | 4-year program

Undergraduates in Furniture Design embark on a course of study encompassing theory, skills, context, research and professional practices. Drawing from a rich tradition, they are encouraged to experiment and work with a wide range of emerging materials and technologies, developing individual voices through the process of making. The program emphasizes the principles and practice of furniture design as well as the social value of art, design and responsible citizenship.

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • conceive of and develop a body of self-directed work comprised of highly resolved, full-scale furniture and objects.
  • effectively use drawing, writing, reading and the making of objects in parallel to explore and articulate original design concepts.
  • demonstrate competency in handling a variety of materials and processes by taking a project from concept to finished object.
  • apply a unique and adaptable design process to a variety of contexts and problems such as form, materials research, fabrication and use.
  • articulate an informed point of view related to the fundamental issues of the discipline of furniture design.

Inspiring community

Approximately 75 undergraduates in Furniture Design work in close proximity with a dozen or more graduate students, sharing respect and support for each other's work. As practicing professionals, faculty mentors are also fully engaged with the development of each student's work, offering constructive feedback and advice as skill levels advance and students become increasingly more fluent in expressing their ideas through the medium of furniture and related 3D objects.

Learning environment

In addition to working in the wood shop and other dedicated studio spaces on campus, Furniture Design majors are often invited to present work at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York and the Salone Internazionale del Mobile (International Furniture Fair) in Milan, Italy. These opportunities offer an invaluable introduction to the industry, along with exposure to some of the best furniture designers in the world. Furniture Design majors also have opportunities to create original designs for studio partners beyond the realm of furniture manufacturers, with recent projects completed for Swarovski crystals and Steinway pianos, among others.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

In beginning the program, sophomores learn to achieve technical competency with a range of materials and their applications, and to develop design processes for evolving concepts through both models and built pieces. Juniors are encouraged to experiment in the course of researching new materials and technologies, various types of furniture and other 3D objects, and issues relating to the human factors of design.

Foundation year

Fall
Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds

Sophomore

Fall
Sophomore Design Methods
Drawing Furniture 2D
Liberal Arts electives
Major or non-major elective
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Sophomore Design/Practice
Drawing Furniture 3D
History of Furniture
Open elective

Junior

Fall
Design + Process or Form in Metals
Professional Practice
Research elective
Open electives
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Design + Process or Form in Metals
Open electives

Senior

Fall
Advanced Furniture Studio
Senior Seminar
Open elective
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Studio Degree Project
Degree Project Seminar
Open electives

Thesis project

In the final year, seniors focus on professional practices and create a final body of work that demonstrates a high level of understanding of the principles of furniture design while simultaneously expressing their own vision and aesthetic strengths.

Application process

  1. First-year applicants

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $60 to use this service, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the first-year application here.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the transfer application here.

  2. First-year applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

    Transfer applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts covering at least the last three full years of academic work completed. This should include all college transcripts and, if applicable, your secondary school transcript. If you attend a school where the language of instruction is not English, your academic credentials must be translated into English by an approved translator.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    RISD is offering all applicants (domestic and international) the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting the test-optional option under the "Testing" portion within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    Transfer credits

    Some Advanced Placement (AP), A-Level classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from AP courses with a score of 4 or 5, A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB scores of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept AP or IB credit from art or studio classes. View RISD's full transfer credit policy.

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since English proficiency is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants are required to meet a minimum score of at least 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on the IELTS, or 115 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must email the Admissions Office at admissions@risd.edu to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible for a waiver.

  4. Portfolio Submission

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. Once you've started your application to RISD in the Common Application, you will be directed to SlideRoom, a separate online platform, where you will upload your portfolio.

    What to include

    Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation (rather than from imagination, a photograph, or video). Drawing is a fundamental tool for visual makers from initial concept to execution, so it is valuable for reviewers to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing.

    While the majority of your portfolio should feature finished pieces, we suggest including some research or preparatory work in up to three—but no more than three—portfolio uploads/slides. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    Documentation

    Finally, we strongly discourage including excessive visual elements and text descriptions in a single slide submission. These are difficult to view and are likely to exceed the allowed submission limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can be submitted across multiple slide submissions, combined into one composite including no more than 3 images or in a single video upload. Editing is an important part of curating your portfolio. You may need to devise creative solutions to best show your work within the limits of submission guidelines.

    Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive or zipped files are discouraged.

    You may be interested in attending or watching the recording of one of our Portfolio Tips webinars for more advice on how to approach your RISD application portfolio. 

    The RISD Assignment is no longer part of the application

    After extensive research and discussion, it has become evident that requiring the RISD Assignment functions as a barrier for applicants and is in direct conflict with RISD’s Social Equity and Inclusion action plan. To provide more access and equity in our admissions process, we have made the decision to remove the RISD Assignment as an application requirement beginning with the 2022/23 application cycle. We will continue to prioritize the portfolio when evaluating the visual component of an applicant’s candidacy.

  5. First-year applicants

    If you are applying as a first-year, RISD requires the Common Application Personal Essay (up to 650 words). You will find the writing prompts in the Writing section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in your essay.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit a written statement, up to 650 words, using the prompt indicated below. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    • Provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve by joining us at RISD.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a dynamic position in the samples you submit.

  6. Letters of recommendation can be very helpful to your application. One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    First-year applicants

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to admissions@risd.edu.

    Transfer applicants

    Please have your recommendation writers submit their letters directly to admissions@risd.edu. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below).