Rhode Island School of Design (or RISD, pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is known as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs at RISD, which offers a choice of 19 studio majors in the fine arts, architecture, design and art education. Each year more than 5,800 children, teens and adults also take classes on campus through RISD | Continuing Education.
RISD in Brief
Tradition of Experimentation
As one of the first independent colleges of its kind in the country – incorporated on March 22, 1877 along with the RISD Museum – RISD has always been something of a maverick, founded and nurtured by a small group of women more than 40 years before women in America even gained the right to vote. That year Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf urged 34 members of the Rhode Island Women's Centennial Commission to invest their group's surplus funding of $1,675 in founding a school of art and design (instead of building a public fountain, one of the other options on the table). In doing so, they embarked on a radical experiment under Metcalf’s able leadership and set a precedent for RISD's ongoing commitment to challenging expectations.
RISD is known for its accomplished faculty of artists and designers, its research and design partnerships and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand.
The college stands out among art schools for its emphasis on the liberal arts as a means of enriching and enhancing the studio experience and equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
A defining characteristic of RISD’s undergraduate education is Foundation Studies, the intensive and demanding investigation all first-year students take into three studio areas: drawing, design and spatial dynamics. Beginning in the sophomore year, students pursue studio majors that enable them to further develop creative, critical and conceptual thinking skills through in-depth exploration of specific media and materials.
16 Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs in:
Apparel Design | Architecture (+ BArch) | Ceramics | Film/Animation/Video | Furniture Design | Graphic Design | Glass | Industrial Design | Interior Studies | Illustration | Jewelry + Metalsmithing | Photography | Painting | Printmaking | Sculpture | Textiles
Brown|RISD Dual Degree (BRDD) program
selected students pursue bachelor's degrees at both institutions simultaneously
11 Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in:
Ceramics | Furniture Design | Digital + Media | Glass | Graphic Design | Jewelry + Metalsmithing | Painting | Photography | Printmaking | Sculpture | Textiles
7 other graduate programs leading to the following degrees:
Master of Architecture (MArch 1)
Master of Arts in Art + Design Education (MA)
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
Master of Industrial Design (MID)
Master of Arts in Interior Architecture (MA)
Master of Interior Design (MDes)
Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)
4 concentrations (“minors") available in:
History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC)
History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS)
Literary Arts and Studies (LAS)
Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies (NCSS)
RISD's more than 25,000 alumni include world-renowned artists, designers, architects, performers, illustrators and leaders in a host of other professions. Eight have been named MacArthur Fellows, and graduates are frequently recognized with other national honors, including the Caldecott Medal, American Institute of Architects awards, Academy and Emmy awards, and the National Design Award. Alumni include fine artists Janine Antoni, Huma Bhabha, Jenny Holzer, Laura Owens, Shahzia Sikander and Kara Walker; visual storytellers Roz Chast, David Macaulay, Chris Van Allsburg and David Wiesner; filmmakers Seth MacFarlane, Ryan Trecartin and Gus Van Sant; fashion designers Katie Gallagher, Nicole Miller and Marcia Patmos; graphic designers Tobias Frere-Jones and Michael Rock; architects Deborah Berke, Michael Gabellini and Michael Maltzan; musicians and actors David Byrne, Martin Mull and Tina Weymouth; and glass artists Dale Chihuly, Josiah McElheny and Therman Statom. Many alumni are successful entrepreneurs – including Airbnb cofounders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia – while others work for large companies such as Apple, Google, Houghton-Mifflin, Martha Stewart Living, NASA, Nike and Pixar, among others.
RISD is located in Providence, Rhode Island – on the east coast of the US, 180 miles north of New York City and 50 miles south of Boston.
RISD's urban campus includes 54 historic and newly renovated buildings near Brown University on College Hill and expanding along the Providence River and into the downtown business district. Key campus resources include:
Open to the public, this regional gem hosts rotating special exhibitions and traveling shows, and houses 92,000 works of art from all periods and genres.
Fleet Library at RISD
An award-winning example of adaptive reuse, this 55,000-sf former banking hall is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers ready access to a Material Resource Center and 130,000 specialized books, including 1,200 artist's books.
Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab
A hub for scientific studies and biodesign, this extraordinary facility offers hands-on access to 80,000 live and preserved specimens and natural history objects, with high-end microscopes and other specialized equipment available for close observation of design in nature.
14 campus galleries for exhibiting student work
New England Association of Schools & Colleges
National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD)
Landscape Architecture Accrediting Board (LAAB) of the American Society of Landscape Architects
National Architectural Accrediting Board
Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
tuition $45,530 (2015/16)
endowment $321.6 million (2013/14)
annual operating budget $132.5 million (2014/15)