Based on the philosophy that all first-year undergraduate students benefit from a shared understanding of RISD’s approach to studio learning, freshmen follow the same studio curricula—known as Experimental and Foundation Studies. Each of the three programs of study meets one full day per week, with students expected to work on an ongoing series of challenging assignments outside of class time. Faculty work closely with students, offering ongoing guidance and feedback. Group critiques provide important opportunities for students to present their own work and support that of their peers.

Three core studios

Studio | Drawing

At RISD students pursue drawing as both a powerful way to investigate the world and an essential activity intrinsic to art and design practice. The studio becomes a laboratory of varied and challenging activities in which to investigate materiality, imagined situations, idea generation and the translation of the observable world.

Studio | Design

In this studio, students explore how to organize visual and other sensory elements in order to understand perceptual attributes and convey meaningful messages through objects, spaces and experiences.

Studio | Spatial Dynamics

This studio-based inquiry into physical, spatial and temporal phenomena considers force—the consequence of energy—and its effect on structure. Students explore physical, spatial and temporal phenomena through a range of analogue and digital processes.

In the Studio

Faculty members work closely with students, emphasizing rigorous critical inquiry and independent learning while offering ongoing guidance and feedback. Projects are designed to encourage exploration, questioning and risk-taking. At the end of each project, critiques are held so that students can discuss their intentions and processes, and reflect on the capacity of the work to embody ideas and emotions.

Nevin Dunn | first-year student

“EFS is exactly what I needed coming to RISD. We do a really diverse range of work in the studios and all the students here are so intelligent and make such diverse, compelling work. The emphasis the faculty puts on conceptual thinking makes the art we produce way more interesting, and I've already developed conceptually—much more than I thought I would. It's hard, but I'm having a lot of fun.”

Student work

Paula Gaetano-Adi | programs head

“Our first-year studios are immersive academic and life experiences. Guided by a diverse and interdisciplinary cohort of faculty, students learn (and unlearn) how to critically make, think and live their work—and how to take risks, how to fail, how to experiment. Experimentation is at the core of what we teach in our studios—the foremost ‘foundational’ principle. As I like to tell my students, in EFS we not only learn together how to question, how to doubt and how to inquire, but we also try to understand why we do it.”

Unlike RISD’s 16 discipline-specific undergraduate studio majors, EFS compares and combines disciplines. It offers a multidisciplinary approach to learning fundamental concepts in studio production while emphasizing process, experimentation and critical thinking and making skills.


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