ISB Renovation
in Progress

Now that the first two phases of the three-year renovation of the Illustration Studies Building are complete, RISD is raising the funds to finish the third and final phase of the project. By the fall of 2015, Illustration majors will return to work in a beautifully upgraded building able to meet the needs of a program on the move.

A new home
for RISD Illustration

With the field of illustration morphing faster than ever,
RISD’s dynamic Illustration program has been evolving equally fast.
In fact, in recent years our vision has far outpaced our facilities,
which haven’t been upgraded in almost half a century.

View a video about the impetus behind the project


Illustration offers the type of interdisciplinary synergy
RISD is embracing with renewed purpose.

It’s the type of synergy that prepares our graduates to find meaningful work in fields as diverse as journalism, publishing, game and interactive design, advertising, textiles and surface design, robotics and many more.

With close to 300 talented students, Illustration is now the largest undergraduate major at RISD. It’s a dynamic department with an exciting vision for the future—and yet it’s attempting to compensate for a building that’s stuck in the past.


It's time to catch up.

For almost 35 years Illustration has been housed in a 19th-century chemical and dye plant last renovated in 1967. It’s a remarkable historic building that has long served the department well. But given the accelerating momentum fueling changes in the field, the Illustration Studies Building (or ISB, as it’s commonly called on campus) can no longer meet programmatic needs. The time has come to provide the department at the forefront of interdisciplinary learning at RISD with a facility that truly meets the demands of 21st-century pedagogy.


The needs are very visible and remarkably real.

Illustration students need more space to collaborate, exchange ideas and move nimbly from drawing and painting to creating advanced digital media.

    They need:
  • more “home spaces” for upperclass students
  • places to parse out storyboards and render complicated CG environments
  • space for practicums and sponsored studios
  • studios where they can paint and iterate and participate in critiques
  • classrooms with computers and dust-free surfaces for digital work
  • space to safely store canvases, drawings and other work in progress

We found a smart, simple solution.

Working with an architecture alumnus and Illustration faculty, RISD has developed an elegant, cost-effective design solution that will allow for a total upgrade of the building while it remains fully occupied and functional during the academic year.

At the heart of the project is a 5,600-sf glass addition that will envelop a code-compliant stairway, elevator and restrooms. This will make the building fully accessible for the first time in its history, opening the door to those with disabilities. It will also allow each floor to be reconfigured to correct the complex warren of spaces now preventing programmatic progress.

In the end, the ISB renovation project will respect the building’s historic integrity while providing RISD’s largest undergraduate department with a fully accessible, fully functioning facility that suits current and anticipated requirements for its rapidly evolving curriculum.

But we can't get there without you.

To get there, RISD is working to raise $5.5 million to complete the ISB renovation and expansion by the fall of 2015. We’re well on our way, but your support today will ensure that the project proceeds on schedule.

See our plans for the new ISB


Site design by RISD Media, development by Greg Nemes

Homepage illustration: Chris Buzzellii BFA 95 / faculty member, The World Turned Upside Down

Watercolor renderings: Joe McKendry 94 IL / faculty member