Heather Corcoran is a designer and writer. She is the Halsey C. Ives professor at Washington University, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. She currently serves as the interim dean of University College, where she has led the development of a St. Louis-focused vision for a new independent school of the university, under the direction of the university’s new chancellor, Andrew Martin.
Corcoran’s research spans graphic design, data visualization, and creative non-fiction writing. Her work often explores relationships of information and visual expression, using text, numerical data, and images. Her projects include literary and data visualization projects for exhibition, collaborative projects in public health and K-12 education, and client-based projects in the field of design such as brand and publication projects.
Corcoran has had solo exhibitions of her visual work at Northeastern University in Boston, Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and COCA (Center of Contemporary Arts) in St. Louis. Her work has also appeared in the exhibition Information Everything at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, BC.
Corcoran holds a courtesy joint appointment in the Brown School at Washington University. She was the lead author on the article “Making cancer surveillance data more accessible for the public through Dataspark,” published in the design journal Visible Language. The article grew out of her role as co-principal investigator on a series of projects funded by the National Cancer Institute (NIH) that studied ways to make cancer data more meaningful for the public.
Corcoran also teaches undergraduate designers typography, writing, and graphic design in the Sam Fox School’s Communication Design program. She served as the inaugural lead faculty on the WUSTL College Prep design thinking course for prospective first-generation students in the St. Louis region.
Corcoran writes and presents about design culture, education, process, and leadership. She has given talks to Eyeo, AIGA (the professional association for design), IDSA (Industrial Designer Society of America), and LearnX, and UCDA (University College Design Association).
Her design 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 client 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 led the College and Graduate School of Art 2014–2019, where she was actively involved in the development of new MFA and BA degrees, as well as inaugural second majors and new minors. She 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 was co-chair of the inaugural advisory committee for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. She currently serves on the university’s steering committee for strategic planning.
In addition, Corcoran serves on the national editorial board for the AIGA’s journal Dialectic and recently served on the advisory board for a collaborative grant about visual science education, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Corcoran holds a BA in English from Wesleyan University and an MFA in graphic design from Yale University. She is married to Gregg Thompson. They live in Skinker-DeBaliviere with their three children.