Heather Corcoran appointed director of art

Designer to lead College & Graduate School of Art

Heather Corcoran, chair of the design program in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, has been named director of the school’s College & Graduate School of Art.

The appointment, effective July 1, was announced by Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.


“Heather is a nationally recognized designer, educator and design researcher and has demonstrated tremendous leadership in her various roles across the school and the university,” Colangelo said. “She is an exemplary teacher and deeply committed to the success of the college and her colleagues.

“I am confident that she will do an extraordinary job leading the College & Graduate School of Art in the years ahead.”

A graphic designer, Corcoran explores relationships between information and expression in her work, which spans collaborative projects for social impact and self-generated projects for exhibition. She works on questions of informational density, clarity and audience understanding, while also addressing how elements such as image, text and graphic form create voice, and how data can provoke an emotional response.

At WUSTL, Corcoran has served as a faculty fellow in the Office of the Provost (2012-13) and as the chair of the Faculty Senate Council (2010-12). As a faculty scholar in WUSTL’s Institute for Public Health, she studies how visual design can make health data more meaningful. In fall 2012, she was asked to lead the Sam Fox School’s Interaction Design Initiative, which provides all students in the university the opportunity to study human behavior as a vehicle for creating interactive tools, including smartphone apps.

Corcoran is the lead author on the article “Making cancer surveillance data more accessible for the public through Dataspark,” published in the design journal Visible Language in 2013. The article grew out of her role as co-primary investigator on a series of projects funded by the National Cancer Institute between 2009 and 2011 that studied ways to make cancer data more meaningful. In addition, she was lead designer on the disease risk app Zuum, a collaborative project with researchers in the School of Medicine, which was released on Apple iTunes in 2012.

Corcoran writes and presents about design, design education and learning, design process, and leadership at conferences, universities, and other national and international venues, including the AIGA, the professional association for design, and the American Alliance of Museums. She also conducts commercial projects in identity, information design, and design thinking; her clients have included Yale University Press, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City and the Princeton Architectural Press.

Corcoran’s work has been recognized by the International Institute for Information Design, Communication Arts, Print magazine’s Regional Design Awards and AIGA St. Louis. An exhibition of her work, “Reading Time: Visual Timelines, Texts, and Canons,” will open at Gallery 360 at Northeastern University in September.

Additional WUSTL service includes co-chairing the advisory committee for the new Center for Diversity and Inclusion and serving as a member of the provost search advisory committee, the steering committee for the university’s brand assessment project, and the search committee for the vice chancellor of Public Affairs.

Corcoran holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Wesleyan University and a master’s in graphic design from Yale University.