This Masters programme provides the critical skills necessary to reflect on and interpret the numerous roles design plays today, while challenging conventional perceptions of what design is. It draws on theory and direct observation, using research, reporting, and analysis to develop a personal point of view articulated in the form of writing and exhibition-making.

The course invites close study of things – that is, the physical products of a consumer society. How are objects imbued with meaning? What do they say about our culture and society? What economic and environmental systems determine them? Students will learn to “read” objects and be able to place them in a broader cultural context. It will soon become apparent, however, that objects are less and less divisible from the systems and networks on which they rely. So much design today is inherent in the workings of technological products – at the level of code. Screen-based interfaces and networked devices govern so many of our everyday experiences, and their underlying design has a logic and a politics that demands scrutiny. Similarly, social design engages in the workings of a community, in the complex network of relations. Design literacy today demands an awareness of such systems. Our analysis of non-things also extends to the understanding of spaces, from interiors to the public realm. How do we read a space, and how do people behave in particular places? How are our notions of public and private changing?

This course is geared towards a rapidly shifting media landscape in which publishing, museums, academia and design institutions are redefining themselves. Students are encouraged to develop a high level of critical thinking which they can continue to pursue in professional careers that incorporate aspects of journalism, research, criticism and curating. They are equipped with skills that address traditional forms of writing and exhibition-making alongside online platforms, broadcasting and more experimental media and display formats.

One of the advantages of being embedded in a design school is that aspiring writers and curators are in an environment where design is constantly being generated. This proximity to the thought processes and working methods of designers offers a deeper understanding of how design works. It is also an opportunity to develop collaborations and alliances with designers that may be formative to their future practices.

The course is a crossroads for international writers, curators, editors, and designers, who share their insights and experience. Students also benefit from affiliations with the Design Museum in London and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, with the potential to gain an insider’s view of live projects.



Students meet in at least twice-weekly guided seminars for in-depth group discussions of foundational texts and exhibitions and to workshop their own writing and curatorial thinking. In addition to individual assignments, students have the opportunity to work on several collaborative projects, such as publications and conferences, with members of the course as well as with other DAE Masters students.

The course is taught in two locations: in a purpose-built seminar room in the Masters department of the Design Academy Eindhoven and at the Van Abbemuseum. The seminars taught at the Design Academy focus on critical thinking, writing, and exhibition-making, while the seminars taught at the Van Abbemuseum concentrate on curating in the context of museological practice, although there is considerable cross-fertilization between the two.

Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven



Over the course of the first year, students are led by DC&W tutors through a series of theme-based seminars that introduce some of the key ideas shaping the way design is made, used, and understood today, as well as core skills necessary in the expanded toolset of today’s writer/thinker/curator. This seminar series looks at different forms of writing, from articles and reviews to blogging and broadcasting, and at all types of exhibition-making. The aim is to understand the craft of each form and to develop a wide expressive range across different media outputs.


Led by members of the Van Abbe curatorial team, the course looks at both the historiography of curating and the practical business of making exhibitions happen in the real world. Students learn about seminal exhibitions and how they changed the curatorial landscape as well as understanding how galleries and museums operate today. Time will be spent understanding the nature of exhibition-making, loaning artefacts, building museum collections and the way that museums and galleries seek to create a dialogue with the public. Close and critical analysis of components of the museum including its archives, collection, programming and constituents, lead to a consideration of what’s at stake in curatorial and museum practice today and to questions about how we might best use the different curatorial tools at our disposal.

For both aspects of the programme, students will be expected to read widely and independently around the thematic topics, and to do close reading and make notes and short presentations on specific texts in preparation for group discussions. Students will also need to read one another’s work and participate in constructive peer critique and editing workshops. Most weeks, short writing and curating assignments are set, and at least once per trimester students will give formal presentations of their work to the tutors and invited critics. As well as inviting several guest lecturers per year to the DAE, the course comprises numerous visits to museums, design studios, and other design institutions. Students meet leading curators, designers, critics, and commentators and in each case students will need to conduct thorough research and be prepared to ask insightful questions, and, in some cases, to lead the discussion.


The second year is largely dedicated to a personal research project that will result in the Masters thesis. The DC&W thesis allows students to practice deep research and long-form writing, and to explore a specific research territory connected to design, architecture, urbanism, or visual culture, which will sustain further investigation even beyond the MA. Most importantly the thesis should argue a position and should represent an original and significant contribution to knowledge.

Head of department

Alice Twemlow, author, educator, and curator


Karolien Buurman

Team of tutors, visiting lecturers and critics

Nick Aikens, curator, Van Abbemuseum
Kirsten Algera, chief editor, MacGuffin magazine 
Nick Axel, deputy editor, e-flux Architecture
Katinka Baehr, documentary maker
Christiane Berndes, head of collections, Van Abbemuseum
Brendan Cormier, writer and curator, V&A Museum 
Tom Dyckhoff, architecture critic and broadcaster
Noortje van Eekelen, designer, visual researcher, and co-founder The Common Affairs
Annie Fletcher, chief curator of exhibitions, Van Abbemuseum
Diane Franssen, curator and head of research, Van Abbemuseum
Dr. Lisa Godson, co-director, MA Design History & Material Culture, NCAD
Ernst van der Hoeven, chief editor, MacGuffin magazine
Agata Jaworska, design, curator, and writer
Koen Kleijn, art and culture critic, De Groene Amsterdammer
Dr. Stephen Knott, lecturer, Critical and Historical Studies, Kingston School of Art
Jorn Konijn, curator
Justin McGuirk, writer, critic, and chief curator Design Museum London
Tracy Metz, journalist
Dr. Wayne Modest, director, Research Centre for Material Culture, Leiden
William Myers, writer and curator
Paolo Patelli, architect, researcher, and associate reader, Design Academy Eindhoven
Belle Phromchanya, designer, visual researcher, and co-founder The Common Affairs
Jennifer Pettersson, documentary, film, and radio maker
Dr. Catharine Rossi, senior lecturer, Design History, Kingston School of Art
Tamar Shafrir, design researcher, Het Nieuwe Instituut and co-founder, Space Caviar
Irina Shapiro, program director, Open Set
Steven ten Thije, project leader L’Internationale, and curator, Van Abbemuseum
Noam Toran, artist
Fabrizia Vecchione, communication specialist
Linda Vlassenrood, curator and program director, DATAstudio
Richard Wentworth, artist
Will Wiles, novelist, architecture and design critic
Paul Wright, journalist and podcaster

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