Design & Public Policy Studios

The Design & Public Policy Studio (DPPS) develops approaches necessary for professionals of all disciplines to flourish in environments where uncertainty and complexity challenge the status quo. DPPS immerses participants in a design studio setting modeled on RISD’s 143 years of excellence in teaching creativity and cultivating transformative learning environments.

Through a variety of offerings, DPPS has engaged local, national, and global participants, organizations, and institutions including: City of Providence, State of Rhode Island, Special Operations Command North, RI State Police, MA State Police, RI National Guard, US State Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, UN, MIT, Harvard, IBM, Coca Cola, FDIC, OMB, and Google.

Graduates of the program leave with the capacity to conceive of, design, and build their own tools to create more robust solutions, and improve individual and organizational decision making. They are better able to anticipate how the world will react to their ideas and steward those ideas toward successful implementation. DPPS builds cohorts of better collaborators, better critical thinkers and problem-solvers, and better communicators.

Why RISD, Design and Public Policy?

Decades before the rise of design thinking, Human Centered Design (HCD), and their variants, RISD was at the forefront of developing the learning conditions and practices that enabled students to realize their creative potential. We believe that at the core of all good design is careful attention to the people who are impacted by the design, along with the broader systems which will ultimately shape the project’s outcomes.

Public policy is a tool for translating big ideas about the future into actionable programs. It organizes the larger structures and systems which govern the behaviour of people, communities, and organizations in the public realm. But policy isn’t the sole avenue for change nor is it immune from social, political, economic and technical dynamics. Design practices allow us to experiment and gather feedback for situations that are constantly changing and which have no precedent. This is the value of merging design mindsets with public policy – to create more durable and resilient interventions.

Why a studio? 

A studio at RISD is a project-based learning environment. Design studios provide a platform for open, guided inquiry into problems for which there are no simple or totalizing answers. Studios are a venue for research, experimentation, insight generation, and creativity; they accommodate the mess that comes with navigating uncertainty and embracing complexity. Students in the DPPS will collaboratively develop and refine approaches to tackling systemic challenges they face in their professional and even personal lives.