RISD key messages and supporting facts

Communicating clearly and consistently about RISD is essential to engaging and informing our primary audiences. While most communications will likely touch on one or more of the key messages outlined in this section, these broad messages should be seen as a starting point from which communications can be tailored based on the interests, needs and level of understanding of RISD in any given audience.

To support that customization, this section offers:

Topline message

RISD’s immersive model of education—which emphasizes conceptually driven, studio-based learning and robust study in the liberal arts—has never had more potential for greater impact.

With a strong commitment to improving the world around them, RISD students develop the confidence and cross-disciplinary thinking, problem-framing and problem-solving skills needed to intervene in the critical social, political and environmental challenges of our time.

Supporting messages

Interim presidency

Interim President Dave Proulx is focused on advancing the institution’s strategic plan, NEXT: RISD 2020-2027, and guiding the community through the continued impacts of COVID-19.

Proulx’s near-team goals include advancing the college’s SEI and Campus Master plans, working with partners on new and ongoing research projects and building non-tuition revenue through burgeoning programs like RISD Expanded Education.

During the pandemic, as RISD’s senior vice president of finance & administration, Proulx helped the institution persevere through the greatest financial and operational challenge in our history.

President-Elect Williams

Rhode Island School of Design’s Board of Trustees recently announced the appointment of Crystal Williams as the institution’s 18th president effective April 1, 2022.

Williams was selected after an international search for a leader with the capability and passion to educate artists, designers and scholars for a rapidly changing future, and one with the global vision to guide RISD’s role in helping to create a more just, fair and sustainable society.

A teacher, leader, advocate, poet, and Boston University’s current vice president and associate provost for community & inclusion, Williams believes that education, art and design, and commitments to equity and justice are essential to transforming our society

Social equity and inclusion

RISD is committed to being proactively anti-racist in principle and practice, and to making consequential, scaled changes throughout the institution.

In summer 2020, the institution announced a new set of commitments that built on its 2017 Social Equity and Inclusion Action Plan.

  • As a result, during the 2020-21 academic year, RISD increased financial aid to its highest level ever, increased racially diverse hiring by 13 percent and completed an ambitious cluster hire of 10 new faculty members with expertise in the areas of race and decolonization.

For the 2021-22 academic year, RISD will continue to build on these efforts with a significant number of ongoing faculty and staff searches and continued work on SEI plans specifically addressing each area of the college and museum.

Additional messaging guidance

RISD stands out for being a freestanding art and design college known for its:

  • extraordinary faculty, who are deeply invested in student success (with studio faculty members adept at balancing professional art and design practice with teaching and mentoring)
  • liberal arts courses that expand curiosity, empathy and the understanding of human life in all of its complexity
  • low student to faculty ratio (10:1)
  • rigorous interdisciplinary foundation program in which all first-year students learn to question assumptions, challenge their own ideas and begin to develop a new visual vocabulary
  • true commitment to thoughtful creative process and conceptual rigor in the production of all studio work
  • shared respect for materials-based research and making, along with exceptional craftsmanship
  • breadth of discrete majors / deep disciplinary approach to making
  • broad-minded, global community of highly motivated students who challenge, inspire and encourage each other
  • close, reciprocal relationship with Brown University
  • career center expertise in supporting emerging and established artists and designers at every point in their careers, helping them pursue creative opportunities in almost any field imaginable
  • strong, supportive network of alumni, parents and friends leading in a broad range of sectors around the globe
  • edgy tradition of experimentation, starting with its founding by women in the 19th century
  • eclectic, historic campus with extraordinary facilities for creative research and discovery
    • RISD Museum, the third largest college/university art museum in the US and an important regional amenity with a collection of more than 100,000 works of art from around the world and representing all periods and genres—all accessible to students for direct, hands-on learning
    • Nature Lab, a studio-lab offering unmediated access to more than 80,000 authentic natural history specimens, while also fostering creative inquiry into biomimetics, biophilic design, ecology and climate change
    • Co-Works Research Lab, an interdisciplinary space for exploring new and emerging technologies and enhancing cross-disciplinary learning
    • Fleet Library at RISD, a source for 150,000 circulating books, along with specialized collections for research in art and design and a Materials Resource Center that supports studio research and experimentation
    • 14 campus galleries for exhibiting student work
  • location in Providence, an accessible city with a vibrant creative community and proximity to Boston and NYC

Qualities of special interest to graduate students include:

  • an inspiring community of creative practitioners—from fellow students to area alumni to exceptional faculty members who bring expertise in professional practice to their teaching and mentoring
  • a global, open-minded community of scholars/thinkers/makers
  • a low student/faculty ratio (10:1) and small class sizes, allowing for especially fruitful relationships between grad students and faculty
  • opportunities to propose and teach new courses
  • a required final thesis project that entails both exhibiting and writing about a body of new work
  • a real commitment to process and conceptual rigor in all studio work produced
  • shared respect for materials-based research and making, along with exceptional craftsmanship
  • the breadth of discrete majors and deep disciplinary approach to making
  • knowledge and understanding of the demands of professional practice in specific fields
  • opportunities for interdisciplinary research and/or collaborative project-based learning
  • a close, reciprocal relationship with Brown University (including its resources and scholarly community)
  • RISD’s strong reputation in the world of art and design
  • specific departments and faculty members known as leaders in their fields
  • studying/living in Providence, an affordable city with a vibrant creative community and proximity to Boston and NYC

RISD is:

  • about both deep disciplinary focus and interdisciplinary learning
  • a place for open experimentation and materials research
  • a haven for deep personal reflection and creative exploration
  • a space where the joy of making is wonderfully contagious
  • a place for inspiring creative collaboration
  • a global community of artists and designers with shared interest in progressive ideas
  • a supportive community committed to sparking change
  • an inspiring community of critical thinker-makers
  • an internationally recognized leader in art and design education
  • the top choice of college for most of the students who matriculate
  • a top source for employers looking for the best and brightest creative talent

RISD looks for students who are:

  • thinkers, tinkerers and makers willing to get their hands dirty / take risks / fail
  • inquisitive / broadly curious / intellectually agile / nimble
  • hungry to make things / passionate / highly motivated
  • curious / open-minded / entrepreneurial / self-directed
  • skeptical / ready to question the status quo and assumptions
  • excited about throwing themselves into an immersive studio learning environment
  • focused / disciplined / ready to have fun by working hard
  • interested in art as a cultural phenomenon / means of communication
  • open to exchanging ideas and engaging in critique
  • interested in clearly articulating ideas verbally and visually
  • interested in learning to think and problem solve across a range of disciplines
  • looking for a pathway to a meaningful life

Committed to diversity and inclusion, we strive to make RISD accessible to all deserving students by:

  • keeping tuition increases as low as possible while maintaining top-quality educational standards
  • increasing access through scholarships
  • assisting first-generation college students through special programming
  • offering financial support for internships
  • providing additional funding to help students pay for studio materials and take advantage of travel opportunities
  • seeking opportunities to operate as leanly as possible while still offering generous and fair benefits for all employees

Supporting facts and figures

The following information may be helpful in conveying and bolstering the key messages shared in this guide.

Overview (boilerplate)

RISD’s mission, through its college and museum, is to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation. The college’s strategic plan, NEXT: RISD 2020-2027, sets an ambitious vision for educating students for the future and bringing creative practices to bear on the creation of just societies, a sustainable planet and new ways of making and knowing. RISD’s immersive model of art and design education, which emphasizes critical making through studio-based learning and robust study in the liberal arts, prepares students to intervene in the critical challenges of our time. Working with exceptional faculty and in extraordinary specialized facilities, 2,500 students from 68 countries engage in 44 full-time bachelor's and master's degree programs. RISD's 31,000 alumni worldwide testify to the impact of this model of education, exemplifying the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. Find more information at risd.edu.


The mission of Rhode Island School of Design, through its college and museum, is to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation.


As one of the first independent colleges of its kind in the US—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.

Degree programs

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

In addition, the five-year Brown|RISD Dual Degree (BRDD) program invites selected students to pursue bachelor’s degrees at RISD and Brown University simultaneously.

12 Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in:

  • Ceramics
  • Digital + Media
  • Furniture Design
  • Glass
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Jewelry + Metalsmithing
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles

11 other graduate programs—including two intercollegiate joint degree programs—leading to the following degrees:

  • Master of Architecture (MArch I)
  • Master of Arts in Art + Design Education (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Adaptive Reuse (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Design Engineering (MA, RISD-Brown joint degree program)
  • Master of Arts in Global Arts + Cultures (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
  • Master of Industrial Design (MID)
  • Master of Interior Design (MDes)
  • Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)
  • Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) + Master of Marine Affairs (MMA, from University of Rhode Island)

6 concentrations (“minors”) available in:

  • Computation, Technology and Culture (CTC)
  • Drawing
  • Theory + History of Art + Design (THAD)
  • History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS)
  • Literary Arts and Studies (LAS)
  • Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies (NCSS)


In 2021/22, RISD enrolled 2,044 undergraduates and 532 graduate students from the US and 68 countries throughout the world.

Students of color accounted for 38% of the student body and international students 36%. Average SAT scores are 719 for math and 665 for evidence-based reading and writing. RISD offers all applicants—domestic and international—the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT.


RISD’s more than 31,000 alumni include world-renowned artists, designers, architects, performers, illustrators and leaders in a host of other professions. Ten have earned MacArthur “genius grants” and graduates are frequently recognized with other international honors, including Caldecott Medals, American Institute of Architects awards, Academy, Emmy and Sundance awards, Fulbright fellowships, Guggenheim fellowships, National Design awards, Progressive Architecture awards and the Rome Prize, among others.

Alumni include fine artists Janine Antoni, Jenny Holzer, 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 Toots Zynsky.

Many alumni achieve success as entrepreneurs—including Airbnb cofounders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia—while others work for established companies such as Apple, Gagosian Gallery, Google, Houghton-Mifflin, Marc Jacobs, Martha Stewart Living, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NASA, Nike, Pixar and SOM Architects, among others.


RISD is located in Providence, Rhode Island—on the east coast of the US, a three-hour drive north of New York City and 45 minutes south of Boston.


  • New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC)
  • National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD)
  • Landscape Architecture Accrediting Board (LAAB) of the ASLA
  • National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)
  • Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDESE)

For more information, visit risd.edu and RISD's online Fact Book.