Master’s Programs

Highly experimental and individualized, the MFA 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 you produce may range from one-of-a-kind objects to designs for limited or mass production and experimental, conceptually based projects. Aesthetic considerations are paramount, in conjunction with a fluent use of materials and processes to support individual design concepts.

Two-year curriculum

During the first year of the two-year program, 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.

View the two-year curriculum

Three-year curriculum

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 the two-year MFA curriculum and thesis work. Faculty are able to advise during the interview stage on the most appropriate track for applicants.

View the three-year curriculum

Learning outcomes

Graduates of the MFA program 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.

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 show final bodies of work in RISD's annual graduate thesis exhibition.