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MA Exhibition Design


The Masters of Arts in Exhibition Design is one of the few accredited graduate programs in the nation devoted to interpretive exhibition design. The curriculum is focused on design-thinking and experiential design, which students learn through a balanced integration of academic, technical, and real-world design opportunities.  Throughout the program students are challenged consider human factors in the creation of meaningful experiences and engaging spaces.  Students obtain the professional and technical skills needed to create narrative environments, museum exhibitions, through user-centered design.

Real-world design opportunities are integral to learning in the MA Exhibition Design program. Students practice design-thinking, iterative and collaborative design through project-based coursework.  Portfolio-building opportunities are also found in the client-based projects completed by DesignCorps, an extra-curricular design group open to Exhibition Design students.  Recent DesignCorps projects include installations at the World Bank, the US Diplomacy Center at the US State Department, the International Finance Corporation, and the Historical Society of Washington DC.  DesignCorps has also collaborated on installations with Corcoran Photojournalism students and completed an award-winning  museum-based "hack-a-thon" with our technology partner. As a design program situated within the context of a major research institution there are many opportunities to capitalize on design-based collaborations with science, technology, engineering, the arts, and the humanities.

Graduates leave the program ready to assume the responsibilities of visual storytellers, communicators, and visitor advocates. Recent graduates have found job placements at nationally recognized history museums, cultural sites, art museums, event marketing firms, and exhibition design firms.

With a growing network of successful alumni the MA in Exhibition Design is nationally and internationally recognized as one of the most comprehensive and forward-thinking degree programs of its kind.

Program Head


Clare Brown
Exhibition Design
Assistant Professor

Careers and Internships

Situated in the heart of Washington DC, an international hub of the museum and design community, the MA Exhibition Design program offers students opportunities to practice their skills and theory among professionals of the highest caliber. Students intern at the Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art, the Textile Museum, Creative Mornings DC, SweetGreen, and award-winning exhibition design firms located in DC.

Additional recent hosts have included:

  • The National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian Latino Center
  • The National Air and Space Museum
  • Freer and Sackler Galleris of Art
  • Phillips Collection
  • Smithsonian Office of Exhibits Central
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • Hamiltonian Gallery
  • The Textile Museum
  • The New National Museum of African American History and Culture

Job placements include:

  • The Getty Museum of Art
  • Gallagher and Associates
  • Cortina Productions, Inc.
  • Howard + Revis Design, Inc.
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • The Whitney Museum of Art
  • Thinc
  • C&G Partners
  • The PRD Group
  • F. Shumacher and Co.
  • Quatrefoil Associates


The following curriculum is for legacy students, defined as those students who began taking classes at the Corcoran prior to the fall 2015 semester. Students enrolled beginning in fall 2015, should contact Clare Brown.

The Master of Arts in Exhibition Design Program is a two-year, 48-credit program, which can be completed in four semesters of full-time traditional study. Part-time study is also available for those balancing coursework with careers and other demands.

The curriculum focuses on four main areas of study: museum theory, design theory, technical skills, and practical experience. A fifth area of focus that is included throughout the program is a consideration of future of exhibition design as an experiential medium.

Required Courses

·       Exhibition Design Core Studio I: Exhibition Design and Planning
·       Exhibition Design Core Studio II: Interpretive Design in Museum and Non-Museum Environments
·       Exhibition Design Core Studio III: Introduction to Methods of Visual Representation
·       Exhibition Design Core Studio IV: Advanced Methods of Visual Representation
·       Construction and Detailing for Exhibitions
·       Materials, Finishes, and Methods for Exhibitions
·       Lighting for Exhibitions
·       Vectorworks, AutoCAD, or Revit
·       History of Architecture and Interior Design
·       Museum Management and Operations
·       Conservation and Art Handling
·       Communicating Content: Curatorial Studies for Exhibition Designers
·       Capstone/Thesis Part 1 and 2

Department Life

Students have an opportunity to develop valuable professional networks through membership in the Washington DC Student Chapter of Society for Experiential Graphic Design. Through SEGD students attend conferences, take field trips to Philadelphia and New York to visit design firms, and engage in career focused workshops.

The program's faculty members are all drawn from major museums and design firms. This professionally-oriented faculty offers students exposure to real-world exhibition design projects in addition to providing students with professional advice and opportunities for networking.

DesignCorps is a collective of graduate students from the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design College, (led by faculty advisor, Clare Brown) who review, accept, and implement proposals for client-based design projects with the supervisions of professional design faculty. Originating in the Master of Arts in Exhibition Design program, DesignCorps takes on three-dimensional, narrative, and environmental design projects such as exhibitions, installations, interior designs, and pop-up experiences for clients in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Recent projects have included:

Faces Of Diplomacy, a photography exhibition in collaboration with Corcoran Photography students at the US Department of State, Center for Diplomacy

Memnon Project, a collaboration with the GWU Engineering School, and DC Public Schools to develop thermo-acoustic and thermo-kinetic sculpture

For The Record, a collaboration with the Historical Society of Washington DC

ADA 25 / VSA 40, a large-scale installation at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts including 5 exhibitions throughout the building. The project coincides with a national celebration of disability rights and marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the 40th Anniversary of VSA (formerly Very Special Arts.)