Graduate Curriculum


Graduate Curriculum

Could you define the coursework exactly in all the ID studios and seminars for year 1 and 2?

Answer provided by Kelly Lohr '16:

Semester 1*: You’ll have a graduate studio class each semester, and will focus on the different areas of design at different times: responsible, commercial, experimental, and discursive design.  Typically this first semester is all about broadening your research methodology to get into a really innovative and critical work practice, and also to help you figure out what questions really interest you as a designer. You will take a graduate shop class, as well as a couple of other classes of your choice.

Semester 2: Again, you have a graduate studio focused on helping you work within your area of inquiry and the four general types of industrial design. Many take the business course during this semester, which really helps with putting together commercially viable products. Mostly the business course covers what you would need to know if you wanted to become an entrepreneur, but you study companies of all sizes. Then you would haveone or two electives, depending on how ambitious you are with your time.

Semesters 4 and 5: Thesis year. Pretty much, this is a very open ended time for you to put to work all the skills and insights you collected from the prior semesters, and you do one long design project. At the end there's an exhibition you put on with your classmates, you write and publish a book, and defend your thesis in front of an audience of your advisors, fellow students, and whoever else shows up. During these semesters you can also take several electives. If you would like to get a higher level of detail about the thesis work, contact the department and we will put you in touch with a current second year grad.

*2.5 Year program: If you are admitted for the 2.5 year program, you would start the Spring Semester before “Semester 1” listed above. This is a time to pick up a lot of skills as well as the basics of ID, like sketching, solidworks, ID history, and manufacturing techniques. You also get to take a senior studio with the undergrads who have been working on their ID skills for 3.5 years at that point. Senior studios range in topics from designing space stations for NASA to UX to production ceramics.


How are graduate studios structured? Is it a semester long individual project at different stages or is it broken down into shorter modules of different kinds of projects?

Answer provided by Kelly Lohr '16:

Studios are usually several projects throughout the semester. They have some prompts/guidelines to help build your capabilities in the different areas of ID, but you are expected to use the projects to find, explore and refine your individual area of inquiry. This is the question that will motivate your design process throughout all studio projects for the following year.

What is the balance between skills acquisition and critical design learning?

Answer provided by Kelly Lohr '16:

Graduate studios are more of the critical design thinking/research oriented classes. Students make such a broad assortment of projects in these classes probably because they are led more by their own questions than they are by the prompt. Electives are where the hard skills are built up and often they service the work you do in studio. The balance can really tip either way depending on what you want to develop in yourself. RISD has the resources to teach you all kinds of skills and there are plenty of critical and theoretical seminars if you are looking for more of that. It is good to come with an idea of where you want to grow.

What are typical assignments like? What would you say your workload is like? How much sleep are you getting?

Answer provided by Kelly Lohr '16:

Assignments are very broad, and usually the only definite deliverable is that you have an artifact at the end and that you can talk about your research process. That being said, students usually find they need to make a lot of things, not just one artifact (a one month commercial design project might produce: a 20 page book, a poster with 5 ad quality images, 10 identical designed objects and their packaging. All of that would have to be built on top of research and development).

Your workload is heavy, but sleep depends on how you handle your time. It is possible to get through the program without pulling an all nighter, though many students end up sleeping very little (if not at all) during the crunch time of a project.

To most students it seems at the beginning of a project that there is not enough time, and then by the crit, everyone has great work to present. Your classmates will be incredibly talented and everyone's personal standards push everyone else to produce better and better projects.