Exhibition Design; exhibit model

Exhibition Design


Design and display where and when it matters most.


The Master of Arts in Exhibition Design (MA–EX) program explores the intersection of design and public communications, in the nation’s capital, at a critical moment in the history of cultural discourse and spatial practice.

Exhibition design, in the MA–EX program at GW’s Corcoran School, is more than the design of spaces that convey information, share stories, or promote products. It does more than relate artworks, objects, and audiences in experiential compositions. It has the potential to tell us about how we are living and how we could be living.

MAEX students take up the charge to rethink connections in the world. They find shapes for ideas and identities and orient them for diverse publics. They choreograph forms, facts, and fictions that put people in touch with each other and with the (built) environment. They design exhibitions as sites of material expression and activism.

The interdisciplinarity of the MAEX program prepares students to innovate through exhibitions. Students work with curators, artists, and institutions. You will design in dialogue—drawing on multiple art, design, and social practices. And, you will develop dexterity, through training in analog craft and digital fabrication, studies in history and theory and exercises in real-world application.

The MAEX program coordinates with Washington, DC’s extensive network of national museums. It also engages the city at-large, identifying opportunities for exhibition in its places of memory and monument, performance and protest, and commerce and leisure.




calendar icon with the number 15

M.A. in Exhibition Design

Date: Friday, January 15, 2021
Time: 8:00-9:00 p.m. EST
Location: Online

NOTE: This is the final information session for the Fall 2021 application cycle!




Program of Study




The MAEX curriculum is studio-centered. Each semester, the exhibition design studio acts as a hub for complementing coursework. Through the studio structure, students do fieldwork, navigate exhibition settings and scenarios, and apply external knowledge and skills in design for exhibitions.

Supporting classes are topical, in exhibition design history, theory, and criticism, in exhibition design practices, and in specializations. Specialized electives allow students to advance as designers or to acquire expertise in digital humanities, programming and performance and museum studies.

The MAEX program is a sequential, 48-unit, two-year course of study.



Exhibition Design Courses

For a PC:


  • 8 GB memory (RAM) or more is recommended.
  • 600 MB disk space.
  • OpenGL 4.1 capable video card is recommended.
  • 4 GB Video RAM recommended.
  • No more than 63 CPU Cores.
  • Multiple-button mouse with scroll wheel is recommended.
  • The SpaceNavigator is supported.

Operating systems:

  • Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 SP1


For a MAC:


  • Apple Mac
  • 8 GB memory (RAM) or more is recommended.
  • 2 GB disk space.
  • NVIDIA or AMD graphics processor is recommended.
  • Multiple-button mouse with scroll wheel is recommended.
  • SpaceNavigator and SpaceMouse Wireless are supported.

Operating systems:

  • macOS 10.14.5 (Mojave)
  • macOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra)

dark room with neon sculpture


Happenings + Events divider






SPORTS Collaborative 2020

Spring 2020 Lecture

SPORTS Collaborative
Probable Cause

Due to Covid-19 this lecture will be re-scheduled for fall 2020





MA–EX students access the exhibition design profession throughout their coursework, during fieldwork, with sponsored studios, and in internships. The curricular experiences reflect working trajectories available to MA–EX alumni. Often, the relationships that students cultivate while in the MA–EX program develop into careers.

Exhibition design is a versatile course of study. MA–EX graduates work in and with museums, are design studio associates, oversee construction and fabrication enterprises, lead arts organizations, and are independent entrepreneurs.


Recent internship sponsors and studio collaborators include

  • Freer & Sackler Gallery
  • Hamiltonian Gallery
  • Phillips Collection
  • The National Air and Space Museum
  • The National Gallery of Art
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • The National Museum of American History
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • Renwick Gallery
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • The Textile Museum


MA–EX alumni work with

  • Local Museums: Many of the recent internship sponsors and studio collaborators, including the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art
  • National Museums: including The Getty and Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Arts and Non-Profit Organizations: including Halcyon House, District Architecture Center
  • (Non-)Governmental and Professional Organizations: including Inter-American Development Bank Art Collection & Cultural Center, The Society for Experiential Graphic Design and the United Nations Department of Global Communications
  • Multi-Disciplinary Design Studios: including C&G Partners, Cortina Productions, Gallagher & Associates, Howard+Revis, The PRD Group, and Thinc Design
  • Design Fabricators and Vendors: including F. Schumacher and Quatrefoil




MA–EX faculty are architects, artists, designers, fabricators, curators, managers and directors. They represent museums, design studios, institutions and organizations and individual enterprises. They recognize the power and potential of exhibition design and work tirelessly to elevate the discipline and educate its practitioners.

MA–EX students are designers with narratives to share. They are storytellers with maker sensibilities. They are community activists, cultural critics, and educators who are developing a public practice. They have formal design training or they have learned by doing. They see in exhibition design an outlet for conceptual and material speculation and an opportunity to join a public conversation.


What our students create

image of student Veera Pfaffli

Veera Pfaffli (M.A. 20') recalls art as always being a part of her life, as her mother was a calligraphy artist, her grandfather a fine artist, and her grandmother a seamstress. After starting her career as a graphic designer in the marketing field, Veera moved toward recycled sculptures and abstract art, with an emphasis on embracing emotion through color. Her thesis project Colorscapes investigates the seven well-know colors of the rainbow and their relationship to color theory and mental health. Images from her project can be seen below. 


Veera's work was also featured in the 2020 Next Exhibition which you can learn more about here


Photo Credit to Chloe Brover Fine Art Photography '20

image of Veera's project titled: Colorscapes

Image from Veera's project titled: Colorscapes




Bailey Ryan (M.A., '19)

Bailey Ryan is a designer, scientist, and maker from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; she creates interactive learning spaces that communicate lessons about the natural world. Her work uses the power of play to share complex subjects with people of all ages.

Her thesis project for NEXT 2019, America’s Amazon, is a proposed children's nature center and learning garden exploring Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Delta is a global treasure of biodiversity and a unique American wilderness. It is also little-known, difficult to visit, and under threat from climate change. The exhibition brings the Delta to Birmingham, AL - a sprawling city where the next generation of Alabama environmentalists are growing up with limited access to nature. An unassuming downtown building transforms into a greenhouse gallery full of life. Exciting playspaces and ecological interactives bring city children up close and personal with one of America’s last truly wild places.




Administrative Offices, Flagg Building
500 17th St, NW 
[email protected]

Program Head
Catherine Anderson
[email protected]

Program Administrator
[email protected] 

Graduate Faculty Advisor
Andrea Dietz
[email protected]