Risd, worth it?

Hi im a current junior at risd and just wanna know, for all the alumni of Risd, was it worth it? I mean i just completed my sophomore year and i feel the teachers arent to helpful and dont spend to much time on important aspects of ID. I mean for the sketching portion of the year, we spent only about 3 weeks on it and our work wasnt really looked at and wasnt expressed to us how important it is to know how to sketch out ur ideas. any one out there agree/disagree, thanx

Look at risd opinion threads here in the forum. They don’t focus on specific “skill” training the way other schools do, or at least that’s the way it’s been in the past. You will have to work on that on your own. The stuff you do learn at risd isn’t so easy to teach but will help you out a lot more if you can somehow work your way up to design director through the years. But it’s that whole getting there part that’s in the middle that they don’t quite prepare you for the way other schools do. Good thing is, skills are easy to pick up if you really want it and can put in the hours it takes, same as learning to write when you’re young, it’s just a different language. Good luck and use online resources like core and tutorial dvd’s (gnomon, etc).

I took an exchange semester (at CIA) which helped balance my RISD education. I would highly recommend it. Also, do what it takes to get an internship.

In the end, a lot of elements of my RISD education benefit me, ironically they almost all came from freshman year. Few schools have as good a foundation year, and all that art history, 2d, drawing , and 3d pays off down the road.

You will have to push yourself, and the simple fact that out of about 45 ID graduate my year, a handful are practicing designers. knowing that the world is bigger than the RISD bubble is a huge step, go the rest of the way and take your education in your own hand… you arer paying for it! Technically you are their boss.

I’m a recent RISD ID grad and would have to say aside from freshman year it was not worth it. RISD offers a lot of good things e.g. ability to take courses at Brown/MIT, ability to craft your own curriculum chief among them, but the core skill section/professors/facilities are pretty lame. The sad thing is it is fairly well known among the industry. While in school i visited some RISD alums at prominent firms and they all said things like “RISD doesn’t give you the skills you need to get a job” and “We don’t hire many RISD grads because it would cost too much to retrain them”.

If you want to work in a traditional design firm and you have only finished your sophmore year my honest advice would be to drop out and go to Art Center or U Cincinatti. If you have great skills with sketching and cad and want to work in a less traditional environment e.g. startup company stick with risd, do the MIT studio, do all your lib arts at brown and contact every RISD grad at companies you know.

Best of Luck

I’d also have to say that the majority of risd grads that I know that are doing well also had experience with another school, either before risd, after for grad, or trading semesters like Yo said. I don’t know a lot that are like me who only had risd as their only ID exposure that are actively practicing id. Lots go into other fields or more research based positions.

wow, im really mad now, all the time and money invested…oh well i lguess its alright though, the environment is what is keeping there. as long as im doing ID for a living ill be happy

The time and money you invest isn’t a waste - if you take advantage of the school’s resources to the max and really invest yourself in it. Its sooo damn expensive, you better work your ass off or you will look back at it as a waste of time.

Like Yo and Skinny are saying, the skills that aren’t part of the curriculum can be learned, either on your own with practice and direction from others, or through a program. The thinking part of things is where RISD is supposed to shine- The fact that many ID grads are working in alternative fields says alot about the education, and not only in a negative way. Its fairly elastic in its application, which can be good or bad; I appreciated it, but if you want to be a straight up traditional IDer, you probably could do better elsewhere.

The department is what you make of it. Unfortunately the professional practice areas are poor. They’re not going to crack a whip at you to push yourself. You decide how far you want to go with your work. Especially now that you’re going into upper-level studios. Want to learn new processes, solutions, mechanics, materials, forms, finishes? Craft your project, and your self-discipline, to do so. Want to do the bare minimum and try to finish your project the night before crit? (you won’t finish, by the way). You’ll be called out, but not kicked out…

I feel like if you’re applying yourself in studio, WORKING IN STUDIO/SHOPS, and being proactive about your work, then there is plenty to learn in the ID Department. And whatever anyone tells you, the facilities are incredible. It’s a very independent place – the faculty won’t hold your hand, just merely function as “Creative Directors”, guiding you on your own course. Where that independent atmosphere starts to fade is after hours in studio, when you have a wealth of knowledge in the peers around you, including the seniors who you’ll be interacting with more this coming year.

It’s similar to their independent philosophy on a materials library – they don’t provide one so that you can learn how to source them yourself. Same goes for the laptop program – rather than create more computer labs on campus, the technology cost is placed on your lap (gah)…they sort of push the responsibility onto the student. The result after 3 years? A lot of resourceful, independent, and creative thinkers, who wish they could draw better.

Maybe look into a spring semester exchange as Yo suggests.

My advice? Stay on top of your shit, and spend as much time in studio as you can – what your one faculty member fails to provide, your many peers will compensate for.

man thanks juice and grimble, i really mad at myself NOW for being so selfish.

I feel the original poster though… do you pay $100g’s to push yourself? A good creative director wouldn’t just call you out, he would mentor you and get you ready to take the next step, not take your money and throw you in the deep end after 4 years with no swim lessons…

I’m love hate on the place. It worked for me… for a lot of other it didn’t though… the funny thing is I was the class reject because I wanted to learn to draw and design mass produced objects. A lot of the people that struggle seem to be the department favorites… at least it was like that 10 years ago, a lot can change…

I feel the original poster though… do you pay $100g’s to push yourself? A good creative director wouldn’t just call you out, he would mentor you and get you ready to take the next step, not take your money and throw you in the deep end after 4 years with no swim lessons…

I’m love hate on the place. It worked for me… for a lot of other it didn’t though… the funny thing is I was the class reject because I wanted to learn to draw and design mass produced objects. A lot of the people that struggle seem to be the department favorites… at least it was like that 10 years ago, a lot can change…


RISD just isn’t a “do this and it will get you there” kind of place. As an earlier poster pointed out, it is much more of a “thinking” place. If learning to be innovative and to think outside of the box can be taught at all, RISD is where you’ll learn it.

There are numerous specific things I could gripe about from my time in the ID dept, a lack of mentoring being one of them (and this was years ago), but in a general sense I think the education is top notch. I can honestly say that years later I am still reflecting upon and learning from my experience there.

My advice is similar to the other posters, which is to push yourself as hard as you can and to make the most out of the unbelievable resources that the school has to offer. Be positive, be open, take risks. Good luck!

I agree with Yo on the fact that if you spend 120K you should get more than creative guidance. And the notion that the faculty is hands off on purpose is kind of ridiculous.

Most of the faculty (at least when i was there a couple years ago) has never produced a design that could be bought anywhere. The adjunct system served as a kind of welfare for mediocre designers e.g. 2 MID grads with zero product design experience ended up teaching the senior studio.

The fact that the grads end up in so many different fields partly belies the student interest, but mostly reflects the fact that most are unemployable due to the lack of formal skills.

The facilities are great, if you want to learn how to be a machinist or woodworker they are great. Want to do SLA/clamshell work? not so much.

The main problem is that the faculty is just stuck designing 25 years ago, hasn’t kept up with the industry, and doesn’t care about offering a premium service. Which is fine if it was a RI state. Would you be happy spending 120K for a car and getting a used Civic?

Well put Joe.

I’m actually heading back for the first time in a few years for the Alumni weekend. I should be around campus on the 7th and was thinking of popping into the studio to see whats up, see student work, and see what’s changed… you think there will be stuff around?

Agreed. This was my biggest complaint while there.

The value of a risd id education is in the theme of this recent discussion – concept is king, and is harder to send overseas than technical skills: Discuss "Toward a Cultural Innovation"
And I don’t think you’re doomed to a Civic upon entering the dept – that’s ridiculous. People leave with BMW’s, Volkswagons, and everything in between. Sure, some even leave on a fixed gear bike, but that was their choice. It’s all relative to the individual and how they shape their experience.

Actually a lot of grads leave in concept cars. :wink:

I’d say from our overlap that you were a counter-current for sure, but there were plenty of people who admired what you were doing. There does seem to be a large amount of anti-product angst in alot of the students, which either turned into them doing something completely non-ID, or in some cases, very different thinking when applied to product work. Or just floundering…

I’m actually of the opinion that the adjunct faculty usually are the ones that bring more interesting and better experience than a number of the full time. There are exceptions of course, but some of my most helpfull professors were adjunct.

Agreed, they are so far behind on prototyping. The integration of the modern ID workflow is pathetic, partly because the department faculty/admin is technologically inept to an absurd degree. The laptop program is a favorite whipping boy, but I can remember in my time very expensive equipment sitting locked up in the SGI lab because it was very expensive and the faculty had no idea what to do with it and was afraid to let anyone touch it.

There is also a very political atmosphere in the faculty of the department, which isn’t at all unheard of in higher education. But in the ID department’s case, it seems to be stimying the development of any major improvements. They need remeber that its about the students and education, not turf wars.

you mean a lump of clay with sticks in it…

Thanks man, I appreciate that a lot. I went from being asked to leave and ship out to Art Center sophomore year because my “values” did not line up with the administration, to getting the faculty achievement award when I graduated… go figure…

I do remember speaking with a student your year Grimb’. It was funny, she was condemning the fact I was doing projects with Nike and Nissan my senior year, when I asked her what she saw wrong in it, she said she would never design a product to be produced for mass consumption of everyday people… good thing she was in the industrial design department…

The thing it really taught me over everything is that it was MY education. I was paying for it (just finished off those loans kid), I made it work for ME, failure was not an option… if you do the same it will be fine… funny because the real world works the same way… maybe they do get you ready for real life… inadvertently…

Like I said, love hate, but there is some love there… wnk

I mispoke when i criticized the adjunct system. While many absolutely suck, there are some really good educators in that group (e.g. matt cottam). while the fulltimers were pretty out of it, there were some really solid adjuncts.

I have to say that RISD gets way too much credit for being a “thinking” school. The cincinatti kids seem the brightest as they have experienced 5 real world studios before they graduated. While RISD MID’s may be able to talk about their projects as they relate to the Hegelian notion of aesthetics they don’t seem much brighter with research, business integration, trendspotting, or product strategy. If they want to stake that position they need to push appropriate methods and deliverables.


Have you ever considered being a trustee? With your experience and obvious commitment to design education you would be a great fit. Maybe you could get the dept on the right track and get them to train the students so they would be competitive in the market place. I hire ID interns on a fairly regular basis and it kills me that the RISD kids never make the cut. If you are interested I think I have one of those nomination forms lying around.

I’d love to do something like that, but:

I’m not exactly sure what the responsibilities are?

I have no idea what the average age is for something like that but I think I might be like 20 years too young?

I’m not sure the department would want to work with me. The firm I worked for, Evo design, graciously sponsored a few studios there, and we were looked at as outsiders imposing the real world on their students.

I’d be open to it though…