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The Rhode Island School of Design

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I have a very mix feeling about RISD.Interior Design
I have a very mix feeling about RISD.
Don't get me wrong, I loved every second of school. Although there were many sleepless nights and grueling critiques that sometimes made me doubt myself...Looking back I wish I enjoyed it more and just not be too scared of being "wrong".

I will start with the positives.
RISD produces Thinkers. RISD trains artist to see differently than others, and if you try to learn- you will learn how to produce what you see and feel outside the box.

RISD is very traditional (at least when I was there- graduated 2012 Interior architecture).
Very old school style of teaching, learn from the basic- have a blank canvas, just like your first time holding that crayon when you are 2years old.

Freshman year you are given projects that you never thought about. It really trains you to see different dimension or art in general. 2D, 3D, and art history.

Here you will find out for a fact what your strenghts or weakness are. You will see and meet other artist and future designers and learn from them as well. That I will never forget. All the inspirations and amazing work you are able to produce- they bring it out from you.

My advice is to - not be afraid, and just do. If you have to do a giant charcoal drawing- go all out! get the biggest paper you can draw on and draw everything you got out. Don't be stuck in numbers and limit yourself. that's the only way you can grow.

Foundation year (freshman year) is the most precious and memorable and often hard tiring times of RISD but I will not exchange it for anything else for that experience.

Now to the "Negatives" or more to the REALITY.
I chose my major - Interior Architecture.
I originally went in thinking I will be in illustration but by going through foundation year, I realized I enjoyed 3D classes and the projects better and wintersession class allowed me to take a glimpse of what that major is so I chose it with a heart beat.

Interior archtiecture is far from interior design. IT is very spacial. Many projects are adaptive reuse projects.

I enjoyed every moment of the studios and classes. I didn't mind staying late, living in studio on the weekends and not having a life, because at that time RISD was my life. They talk about RISD bubble, and it's true it exist. I was sucked into this world of art, concepts, beautiful, thoughtful design that had every form with function.

And then senior year came.
Stress. every senior gets stressed out ofcourse, but not as much as this. I basically had to teach myself alot of programs, because RISD did not teach the most basic programs as a interior architecture/designer should know. CAD, Revit, 3D max etc..

We had a MAC, and learned vector works (firms in u.s rarely use this program) AND Cinema 4D (NOONE knows what this program is- no firm uses this).

I applied to alot of places. close to 60 places in 2 month time. Redoing my portfolio trying to do what the "REAL WORLD" thinks is important.

Only 2 place got back to me and I did not get any jobs.
Thankfully I got a job at a design firm through a friend (CONNECTION IS VERY IMPORTANT IN REAL WORLD), and dipped my artistic brain into corporate office design world.

Not as poetic, Not as conceptual, Not as everything I worked for at School. I wasn't even hired for interior design in the beginning, they liked my graphics and wanted me to work for marketing graphic design team for few months.

I went to grad school for sustainable interior design after 1 year of working. and now I work for top 5 interior design/architecture firm- still corporate office field.

I make decent amount of money compared to other colleges. but I still feel empty.
I still crave that sleepless nights those conceptual, artistic moments I worked for.
And I am planning on in few years to leave the "REAL WORLD" of interior design, and pursue more fine art things like sculpture/painting/making furniture etc.

RISD can give you amazing opportunity to bring your "true artist" inside you. but alot of times I think they just opened up a pandora box that didn't need to be open. I wish sometimes I went to a more practical school and learnt more realistic things- then I would have been more aware of what this field is like. But RISD gave you an impression that Poetic, Conceptual thoughts are what defines design. But in reality almost 96% of design doesn't work with those traits only.

how fast you do it, how much cheaper you can do them are the two most important thing when it comes to designing anything in reality.

I am still grateful that I went to risd. And I wouldn't change that. But I wouldn't let my children go there if they wanted to in the far futrure.

Alumnus Male -- Class 2000
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Now that a few years have passed, IAverageDesign Arts - Industrial Design/Graphic Design/etc
Now that a few years have passed, I can say confidently that I rather regret going to RISD I can clearly remember my first impression of my first class. I entered expecting everyone to be an amazing artist and that was hardly the case. Rather, what I discovered was a very high concentration of wealthy, entitled students with limited actual ability.

Because RISD frequently tops the list of best art schools, it is an international magnet for the offspring of the immensely wealthy. During my time there the campus celebrities included a few hollywood actors, a Saudi prince, the children of many famous figures in the art world and a member of one of the wealthiest families in Europe (actually, contrary to my general argument, she was a remarkable talent).

After graduation, and especially in today's struggling economy, what becomes very clear is that the well-connected students will be just fine. Four years out, most have found decent jobs with their parent's support. Since in most creative industries unpaid internships are considered entry-level positions, it important to have some external support while filling that role. Lately, there has been some criticism regarding this with many making the argument that working without pay makes living in the metropolitan areas unrealistic. I can say with certainty that for a significant enough subset of the population, that is not the case. In fact, quite the contrary, the leisure class is perfectly able to fill those positions, admittedly few in number, and thus from a supply side there is really no reason to offer a living wage.

As for the education at RISD, I found it rather frustrating. I belonged to the graphic design department and during my time there the curriculum was stubbornly, stupidly print focused. During my sophomore year, in a class led by a tenured instructor from Switzerland, we spent nearly the entire term designing the cookbooks.

Classes are broken up into two general categories: studios and liberal arts. Studios are typically scheduled in 6 hour blocks with two main components critique and work time. Crits can be rather grueling. The workload at RISD is exhausting with a lot of competition between student to outdo each other. It is common for people to arrive with in progress work or with something finished a few minutes before. In cases where people have scheduled several consecutive days of studio classes, there is simply not enough time to come up with well conceived projects so the feedback is generally inane and useless.

The order of a crit is also significant. Because most people get sick of talking after a few hours those who show their work first get much better feedback than those who wait till the end. Paradoxically, everyone is usually afraid to go first.

Having transferred from a University, my opinion is that the liberal arts courses are generally not very demanding. Most instructors understand that they are catering to a student body for whom academia is a secondary concern and that their employment is rather in service of the school's college accreditation. That said, the liberal arts instructors, particularly the adjuncts, are exceptionally bright and class discussions are often very lively. Occasionally, you do come across faculty who take their material seriously and as a student and RISD this can be treacherous. Since all liberal arts courses are electives you might spend all of your time reading Foucault with a large project in your degree program due the next day. Most students are savvy to this. The course on birdwatching (yes, really) always fills up very quickly, is held in a lecture hall, and has a very competitive wait list.

The best classes are usually held during the winter session term which spans a few of the years coldest months. These courses are usually lead by graduate students and so their subject matter is usually current and the pacing is often sympathetic to the realities of being a full time, self supporting student.

I often look back on my experiences and wonder if they were worth the expense and the time I spent there. Having left the east coast after graduation, virtually no one I might has heard of the school and saying that you went to college at a school for design suggests you spent your early twenties dancing in fairy dust and chasing the moonlight. Nor has my degree guaranteed against long stretches of unemployment. For a certain privileged group, it is a fine option and for everyone else, frankly, i feel for you because there are not many good options.

3rd Year Male -- Class 2011
Individual Value: A+, Education Quality: F
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Visit several schools, talkBrightDesign Arts - Industrial Design/Graphic Design/etc
Visit several schools, talk to students. RISD isn't perfect, it's not for everyone, but it can be a great school if it is right for you and you are willing to focus and work hard.
3rd Year Female -- Class 2003
Innovation: A+, Social Life: F
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