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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 mock-ups 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 underserved populations in the US and countries such as Costa Rica and Argentina.

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

Junior

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

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. Common Application

    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; eligible students may apply for a fee waiver.

  2. Academic transcripts

    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. Tests

    SAT or ACT

    All applicants are required to submit the results of the SAT or the ACT (American College Testing program). RISD will superscore your results. Subject tests are not required.

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

    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, a 6.5 on IELTS or a 63 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 contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

  4. Portfolio

    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. The Assignment

    In addition to submitting your portfolio, all applicants must respond to the following assignment (your response to which will be uploaded in a specific section of SlideRoom dedicated to the assignment):

    Begin by observing a phenomenon or choosing an object in the natural world. Create a visual reaction to this object or phenomenon. You may use any medium and work at any scale. Document this work and upload it as your first response.

    Then, make a transformation to or modification of your first response. We encourage you to impose no limits to the potential nature or scale of the alteration to your first solution. Document this altered work and upload it as your second response.

  6. Writing sample

    Submit one example of your writing, up to 650 words. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    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 samples you submit.

  7. Letter(s) of recommendation

    Although not required, these letters can be very helpful to your application. One letter is suggested, 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.