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Graphic Design Department records

Historical note

Created in 1958, the Graphic Design Department evolved from advertising design evening classes first taught in 1921 as part of the Decorative Design Department curriculum. RISD began a four-year Commercial Design course within the Day School in 1930, which dealt "directly with Art in Advertising and Printing." RISD organized a separate Graphic Arts Department in 1933 that became part of the Fine Arts Division, 1940-1946.

Reorganized as Advertising and Industrial Design in 1943, the two courses split into separate departments under the Division of Product Development, 1946-1952. Advertising Design included the Fashion Illustration course, 1946-1952. Returned to Fine Arts in 1952, the department, influenced by the work of John Howard Benson, underwent a pedagogical shift during the 1950s from its commercial advertising artist roots toward printing, lettering, and typography.

Faculty members including Alexander Nesbitt, George Pappas, and Malcolm Grear transformed the curriculum into the present Graphic Design Department. Harry Callahan, who created the Photography Department from within Graphic Design beginning in 1961, strongly influenced the development of the new curriculum. RISD began a two-year graduate program in 1976 and introduced a five-year BGD program in 1989. Moved to the Division of Design in 1963, Graphic Design became part of the Division of Architectural Studies and Design in 1992.