Portfolio Guide

Portfolio Guidelines


Your portfolio’s purpose is to engage people and get them excited about your work.

There is no one way to make a portfolio compelling. However one of the most common mistakes we see is talking about your process first and the project idea after. It is a better idea to show the big idea first and then support with process and research to get your audience engaged.

What are we trying to do?

We are looking to build a community that will support and enrich our program towards success by producing projects (and people) that engage, challenge, and improve the constantly evolving discipline of Industrial Design,  and by extension the world that we all share.

Our Process

We do look at each submitted portfolio. Of these portfolios, we take fewer than 30 people every year (about a 10% acceptance rate). Many people review submitted portfolios including, graduate students, faculty, the Graduate Program Director and RISD Admissions.
To successfully engage RISD’s MID panel, the explanations below will help you understand us as your specific audience. We hope they will help you to frame your materials appropriately.

How do we do this?

We rely most on your submitted documents. If we like those, we may go on to look at your personal website and/or other internet presences.

How much time do we spend on each portfolio?

Be considerate of how much time your portfolio requires to get you and your work across. Careful, compelling storytelling through still images and the written word works well for us. Make sure text is legible on a computer screen when the entire page is in view. If video or movies is your medium that’s great, however be mindful of length (clips under a minute are preferred).

What engages us?

Take time to get to know us (see where we are on the Internet, look up our student’s websites, check out our Blog) and see how you can relate to us, not just as an institution but as a community of people. Look at other Masters programs for context. How are they different? What are their strengths? We want to know you’re applying to RISD for a reason - your portfolio and letter should reflect this.

RISD MID Portfolio Template

This is our template to guide you in making your portfolio. We expect you stick to this; the online system will also enforce this.


Your application portfolio is a maximum of 20 pages.
The first 4-5 pages should introduce your projects. Ideally, this is a broad set of projects, so that it shows your range of skills.
The remaining 15-16 pages should give further details about each of those projects. Be strategic about what details you give for each project (you don’t need to show extensive use of the same research method in every single project).

The Rules of Assessment

During the assessment part of the application process the MID panel will NOT:

  • Look at physical folios or books or letters or objects or bags of money that you send in the post or drop off after cycling from Bogotá.
  • Read emails statements sent directly to us.
  • Return physical folios (or anything that you send or drop off).
  • Accept additional material after the deadline even if you ask nicely or point out that it is actually better than the other stuff you sent in by mistake.
  • Discuss money or sponsorship.
  • Rely on English as a Second Language certificates. At some point we will talk to every single person on the phone or on Skype. We recommend that you don’t use out of date or ‘easily’ obtained TOEFL or IELTS certification. It won’t help you in the long (or short) term.

A Complete Application

1. Application & supporting documents
2. Portfolio
3. Personal Statement


Several weeks after the application deadline we follow-up with applicants and ask them to respond to a few short questions that are generated by the current group of graduate students.

How to Connect with RISD MID

You can visit RISD MID! We love people to visit so we can meet them. We’re also really excited about our facilities and we love to show people what we’re working on. Please try and visit us on the official visit days otherwise we will not be able to give you much attention. You can find various visiting options on our website and RISD’s main website.
There are several ways to visit including: Open Studios, Folio Reviews, IN FOcus tours and just plain visiting.
We are planning to hold our own online folio review day and we also attend folio review days in San Francisco, New York City and Chicago. Reach out for more details.