Academics Industrial Design

Bachelor’s Program

BFA | 4-year program

Progressively more challenging studio projects enable ID majors to build an awareness of materials and gain an in-depth understanding of visual and 3D vocabulary through hands-on work. Professors emphasize both the traditional values behind industrial design and current trends in the profession as students progress from creating developmental drawings, to three-dimensional mockups and models, to working drawings and prototypes that incorporate manufacturing considerations.

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

• develop material ideas with facility, clarity and rigor.

• conceptualize and develop ideas imaginatively and accurately in three dimensions.

• effectively communicate their design intent to disparate audiences (including clients, users and fabricators).

• apply knowledge of user experience, human factors, applied ergonomics, contextual inquiry, user preference studies and usability assessments in the design development process.

• understand the contribution their work is making to the profession and the discipline.

• exercise collaborative skills for working across disciplines and in multidisciplinary fields.

Inspiring community

Approximately 285 undergraduates and 35 graduate students work together in a six-floor former manufacturing facility renovated to suit the department's needs. In sharing studio, shop and gallery spaces, students readily exchange ideas and learn from each other. Faculty with a broad range of professional experience and expertise fully engage with students—both in class and through informal conversations in the studio.

Learning environment

ID majors often engage in collaborative work, both with students and faculty in other departments and with off-campus partners at MIT's Sloan School of Management, Brown University, NASA and Massachusetts General Hospital, among others. Wintersession internships and sponsored studio projects backed by such corporations as Samsung, Kimberly Clark, Progressive, Timberland and others provide market-based design opportunities. In addition, ID students often work on sustainable projects for under-resourced communities in the US and countries such as Costa Rica and Argentina.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

The program begins sophomore year with skill-based exposure to both traditional and state-of-the-art techniques for visualization. Through the manipulation of wood, metal, paper and plastic, students begin to understand the unique properties of these materials and the design possibilities inherent in them.

Junior year builds on the skills learned the first year by encouraging students to focus on projects dealing with technology as it applies to products, form and human factors, mechanics and movement, and more.

During senior year, students take advanced design studios, learn more about legal and business practices in the profession and undertake projects that emphasize innovation and the ability to refine formal design issues.

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
Wood I
Metal I
Design Principles I
Liberal Arts electives
Wintersession
Liberal Arts or non-major elective
Spring
Design Principles II
History of Industrial Design
Designing with SolidWorks
Liberal Arts elective

Junior

Fall
Special Topic studios
Manufacturing Techniques or non-major elective
Metal II or Wood II
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Liberal Arts non-major studio elective
Spring
Advanced Design Studio
Manufacturing Techniques or non-major elective
Metal II or Wood II
Liberal Arts elective

Senior

Fall
Advanced Design Studio
Advanced CAD or non-major elective
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Liberal Arts or non-major elective
Spring
Advanced Design Studio
Advanced CAD or non-major elective
Liberal Arts elective

Application requirements

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

    Don’t let the admission application fee prevent you from applying! If the fee presents a hardship for you or your family, we’ll waive it for you. You can request a waiver two ways: 1. Navigate to the "Fee Waiver" portion on the Common App and check off the answer which most fits your family circumstances and you'll be able to submit your application without entering your credit card information. 2: If your situation does not match any of the waiver criteria on the Common App fee waiver section, email admissions@risd.edu and we’ll process the waiver manually. To receive a SlideRoom fee waiver, please email admissions@risd.edu.

  2. 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.

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    Beginning with students applying for entrance in 2021, RISD is offering all applicants the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting this option 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 A-Level classes and IB credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB grades of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept 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 proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS.

    Duolingo is changing its scoring system beginning with tests completed on July 15, 2019 and beyond. If you took this test prior to the change, we require a minimum result of 63. Applicants who completed the Duolingo test on or after July 15, 2019 must achieve a minimum score of 115, which is the equivalent of 63 in their prior scoring system.

    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 contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

  4. Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. You will upload your portfolio in SlideRoom through the Common Application, where you will begin the application process.

    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 or a photograph). 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 selections. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    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 file limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can either be submitted as an individual image or video upload, or you can upload a composite including up to three images. 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 not recommended formats for sharing your artwork.

  5. Below is a list of paired concepts. Choose one pair and make work where the ideas are in conversation* with each other. 

    • Ephemeral / tangible 
    • Complexity / contradiction
    • Chaos / order

    Submission 1: one preparatory study

    We recommend that you make a series of experiments and studies as you work towards a final piece. This could be a sketch, storyboard, 3d model study, short video or animation, exercise, etc. The study does not need to be complicated. Show the development in your thinking. 

    While you may make text-based preparatory works, only include one visual study in your SlideRoom entry.  Please do not include inspiration images. 

    Submission 2: one final work 

    You can then choose to translate these ideas through your choice of material, concept, or process of making. 

    Your work can be made out of any visual materials: two-dimensional, three-dimensional, four-dimensional.

    Tips: The Assignment is an opportunity for you to show us how you think and make. Your reviewers want to see how you grapple with abstract ideas and express them in your art and design work. Have fun with this Assignment. Make work that is authentically interesting to you.

    *When we say ‘in conversation,’ we are referencing the exchange of ideas that grows from the words in the pair. Like any good conversations, there is a push and pull. There are potential challenges, tension, and harmony. Consider asking yourself questions like:

    • Where do you observe these concepts in your life and in the world?
    • How are these words different? Where do they overlap? 
    • How can you express these ideas visually?

    Think deeply about the words you choose. There are many directions this ‘conversation’ can go. 

    For more info, check out our info session about the new Assignment. 

  6. Submit your college essay, up to 650 words. You will find the writing prompts in the Personal Essay 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 the essay you submit.

  7. 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.

    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.