The Rhode Island School of Design
The Rhode Island School of Design - Comments and Student Experiences|
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.
However like mentioned by previous reviewers, a lot of this work might seem redundant or like 'busywork'. This is partly because RISD is a heavily 'technical' school, if you are unaware. It is a bit 'outdated' this way- for example in the ID department we focus a lot more on metal and woodworking than any other school and less on the 'design'. But I personally like that, because in my opinion, if you want to go far, strong basic knowledge in your major is exactly the thing we're suppose to be learning in undergrad. Yes you could ask a school to teach you 'creativity', and for freedom to 'try your own projects', but to be bluntly honest at this point do you have enough SKILL to support your creativity (which btw is not something that can be taught).
Be aware though, if you are not someone who have a self-organized system that enables you to glean what needs to be learnt from the mass of information shoved at you, you might verywell be lost. But it's a wonder what you can learn if you step back from the mundane 'work'- it is also this work that enables you to do the stepping back.
I personally was and am very disappointed at the (majority of) staff and resources here. RISD doesn't seem to provide helpful aid in, well any way. But the students here are amazing, brilliant, but most of all motivated people. I learn 90% the time more from peers than the professors.I love RISD. I am an international student and I received quite substantial amounts of scholarship from many other schools, but like a senior student once passed down to me I will pass to you all- if you want to thrive in the long run come to RISD, it might be hard to find normal employment right off the bat because what it has equipped you are the 'things' essential to become leaders, not followers.