Faculty portfolios

Heather Corcoran

Director, College & Graduate School of Art

Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professor of Art

Phone: 
314.935.6525
Fax: 
314.935.7656

Givens 104

Campus Box 1213
Biography 

Heather Corcoran is director of the College and Graduate School of Art and the Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professor of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. She also holds a courtesy joint appointment in the Brown School of Social Work for 2016-17. She is a graphic designer whose work explores relationships of information and expression, spanning 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.

An exhibition of her work entitled Reading Time: Visual Timelines, Texts, and Canons opened at Gallery 360 at Northeastern University in September 2014. She was the lead writer on an article entitled "Making cancer surveillance data more accessible for the public through Dataspark," published in the design journal Visible Language in 2013. This article grew out of her role as co-primary investigator on a series of projects to make cancer data more meaningful, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute 2009–2011. In addition, she was lead designer on the disease risk app "Zuum," a collaborative project with researchers in the Medical School, which was released on Apple iTunes in 2012. She received a grant from the Kauffman Foundation for a project in biotechnology and information design in 2006.

Corcoran writes and presents about design, design education and learning, design process, and leadership at conferences and other venues around the world, including the American Alliance of Museums and the AIGA, the professional association for design. She also conducts commercial projects in identity and information design; her clients have included Yale University Press, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City), and the Princeton Architectural Press. Her work has been recognized by the International Institute for Information Design, Communication Arts, Print magazine's Regional Design Awards, and AIGA St. Louis.

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). She has been active on several WUSTL initiatives, including serving as co-chair of the advisory committee for the university's new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and as a member of the advisory committee for the search for a new provost, the steering committee for the university's brand assessment project, and the search committee for the vice chancellor of public affairs.

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Statement 

Design is the organization of information and experience in space, over time.

Design is everywhere. It is the map that helps you find your concert seats in a crowded arena. It is the software interface that is so intuitive that I never consult the manual. Design is why my daughter knows that to be a picture of a butterfly—not a dragonfly. But design can do more than tell or explain. It can also capture a spirit, set a tone, inspire protest, and educate.

Design requires a process that is both personal and analytical. It asks us to research across media, gather data from many perspectives, and develop multiple solutions, some intuitive or risky. The process of designing is iterative; we think and rethink, build and rebuild. Evaluation is a constant. Design is never complete.

It is when information, aesthetic, and process merge to facilitate changes in human behavior that design does its hardest work.