Exhibition Design: a guide to postgraduate MA courses

salonemilano, Master IDEA in Exhibition Design - Architecture of Exhibiting

Master IDEA in Exhibition Design - Architecture of Exhibiting

A comparison of the leading schools offering specific MA degrees for the design of exhibition spaces, with interviews with teachers about their different approaches 

Exhibition Design is a field that combines creativity, technology and an understanding of spaces to create unique exhibition experiences. This specialization is becoming increasingly in demand in a world where the design of cultural and commercial events is steadily expanding. For this reason, many professionals choose to hone their skills through Master’s degrees devoted to this fascinating discipline. So here is an overview of some of the principal MA programs in Exhibition Design available, thanks to the direct testimonies of their referents. 

Politecnico di Milano e Associazione IDEA - Master IDEA in Exhibition Design - Architecture of Exhibiting

Polidesign and the Associazione IDEA (Associazione Italiana Exhibition Designer) organizes the IDEA Master’s Degree in Exhibition Design - Architecture of Exhibiting, a first-level professional program aimed at architects and designers who want to explore the subject in its various forms: museums-temporary exhibitions, events-fairs and retail-showrooms. The director, Raffaella Trocchianesi, together with the co-director Mario Mastropietro, describes the good reasons to recommend this course to young graduates and professionals wanting to specialize in this field: “The Master’s course is a strong professional qualification. Significantly, the faculty is made up of the finest professionals active in the exhibition field as well as members of the Associazione IDEA, who will coordinate the 7 design workshops, and authoritative professors at the Politecnico di Milano. Graduates of this Master’s degree have excellent work placement: about 85% within a year of the end of the training course find work in the exhibition field. The course has a history and a structure consolidated in 18 editions, guaranteeing its successful, solid and proven teaching structure. Exhibition Design is a specialization increasingly in demand in a professional and work context where the design of cultural and commercial events - especially of a temporary nature - is constantly increasing. The Politecnico di Milano ranks eighth internationally in the field of Design, confirming itself for years as one of the most prestigious universities worldwide.” 

SPD Scuola Politecnica di Design e Accademia Fiera Milano - MEED International Master in Event and Exhibition Design 

From the fundamental experience of Fiera Milano, Accademia Fiera Milano, in collaboration with SPD Scuola Politecnica di Design, has structured a highly specialized training course covering three years: MEED International Master in Event and Exhibition Design. Enrica Baccini, director of the Research and Development Area of Accademia Fiera Milano, points out its advantages: MEED offers the opportunity to talents from around the world to acquire knowledge and skills in the field of major events and international fairs, in Milan, the world capital of fashion, design and art. The course aims to train a new professional figure who understands the method of design thinking and applies it in every phase of the creation, organization and communication of large-scale events and exhibitions. With this innovative approach to the design of the experience and spaces, students learn to interpret the needs of customers and stakeholders and translate them into new exhibition formats. After the success of the first edition, the second edition of the MA degree almost doubled the number of students, 27 from over 10 countries. Registrations for the third edition starting in January 2025 are open and applications are already arriving from all over the world. From the third edition, MEED, thanks to its collaboration with the Teesside University in England, will guarantee the title of Master of Arts, becoming in fact the only academic body in Europe to offer a two-year in-depth course on the design themes of major international events and fairs.”  

Università degli Studi di Milano and Accademia Fiera Milano - PROGEA Progettazione e Organizzazione di Fiere, Eventi e Punti Vendita

PROGEA, a master’s degree in Progettazione e Organizzazione di Fiere, Eventi e Punti Vendita, organized by the University of Milan and Accademia Fiera Milano, is also ahead of its time. Enrica Baccini describes the course: “For 17 editions, PROGEA has been training the next generations of exhibition and event managers. Four interdisciplinary modules, 500 hours of lectures, always updated, a highly articulated orientation course and a curricular internship are the ingredients that ensure the growth of a community of students, who find work immediately after graduation in event agencies, organizers of fairs and congresses, communication agencies and in other interesting related fields. Since 2023, PROGEA has become a first-level university MA degree. The teaching method of Accademia Fiera Milano, Fondazione Fiera Milano’s training center dedicated to trade fairs, events and conferences, is that of learning by doing: practical exercises, project work with leading organizers in the sector, a curricular internship in a network of companies, agencies and design studios in Milan make Accademia the reference point for young Italians and foreigners wanting to enter the world of work well prepared and with the right mindset.” 

salonemilano, Master PROGEA


salonemilano, Lavorare al insieme agli artisti al Master MAED

Lavorare al insieme agli artisti al Master MAED

salonemilano, L'esperienza di Fiera Milano per il Master MEED

L'esperienza di Fiera Milano per il Master MEED

salonemilano, Master in Advanced Exhibition Design - MAED

Master in Advanced Exhibition Design - MAED

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SID - Scuola Italiana Design di Padova - MAED Master in Advanced Exhibition Design

In 2021 the SID - Scuola Italiana Design in Padua created four Masters courses, now five, attentive to responsible design and young workers who still want to study (with the weekend formula of 130 hours in 13 weeks). This gave rise to the creation of the MAED Master in Advanced Exhibition Design, a three-year course with a theoretical-critical and digital approach.  
“The master’s degree,” says Tommaso Russo, coordinator of the SID School of Masters, “has a theoretical-critical approach to the future of this specialization. It starts from the whole work of curatorship as it has always been, both at the museum level and in commercial activities. Then, thanks to experience with the Galileo Visionary District  science and technology park and the Pop Lab in Rovigo, it explores digital Exhibition Design to enable students to embody the contents and cultural dynamics that make up an exhibition in the digital tool. We combine an understanding of physical exhibitions with that of virtual exhibitions, studying immersive installations in physical spaces or virtual museums for companies, a solution that has been trending lately due to its reduced costs and the cultural and commercial interest it attracts.” 

Praxis Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki - Master Praxis Exhibition Studies

The Praxis Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki offers Praxis Exhibition Studies, a two-year MA degree that focuses on the interaction between art, artists and society. Professor Kaija Kaitavuori gave us the details: The two-year Praxis MA program develops students’ thinking regarding the surrounding society and the exhibition and mediation of art. The goal is to understand the art world and its underlying forces and to establish various active work roles in the arts. The Praxis studies cover both the basics of theory and philosophy of art and the practices of the public exhibiting of art. Students of the Praxis program are educated together with art students, which gives them the chance to work with artists in different kinds of spaces where art is exhibited, such as exhibition venues, the public space, catalogues and digital environments.” 

Other Masters and Short Courses in Exhibition Design  

England also seems to be attentive to exhibition design while remaining mainly in the field of art: Liverpool John Moores University offers a one-year MA Exhibition Studies, while in London, the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design has created the MRes Art: Exhibition Studies two-year MA degree. In addition to MAs, there are also numerous short courses in Italy for targeted training in specific aspects of Exhibition Design. These courses, often lasting a few days or weeks, organized by schools such as the NABA and IED, enable the participants to acquire specific skills in a short time, responding to the need to keep continuously up to date, as required by the work market. 
Hence the MAs in Exhibition Design offer a unique opportunity to enter a dynamic and growing field. Thanks to programs offered by prestigious institutions, students can develop advanced skills and quickly find their place in the world of work. Short courses, on the other hand, offer the opportunity to acquire targeted skills rapidly, ideal for those who are already working or want a quick update. For more information and to register, please refer to the websites of the institutions mentioned above, to find out how these programs can be useful in building a successful career in the world of Exhibition Design.