Professor Catherine McDermott

School: Design School
Position: Professor, The Design School


Catherine has pioneered ways that design is curated and communicated and her inspirational MA Curating Contemporary Design, in partnership with the Design Museum, has created a talented generation of curators all around the world. Her practice is focused on interdisciplinary curating practice, pioneering new sites of practice, most recently science curating partnering Imperial College London on their Beautiful Science project. Science and design collaborative practice is central to Dream Lab, a British Council project with the Royal College of Art and the Science Museum. In 2012 Dream Lab as a live curating brief will have included the participation of over 60 of China leading universities.

Design curating research addresses a field that is still in formation, combining innovation with an original approach to content seen in her leadership of Project Kingston Africa. Building Baskets, the outcome of the project in Zimbabwe was selected for Showcase 2012, the British Council Olympiad festival and will be part of the London Design Festival 2012.

She consults and lectures internationally and furthers research in her field by arranging conferences addressing different areas of design curation. In 2013 the sixth conference will be on Curating in China. Currently working on a book, Curating The Contemporary reflects on a decade of leading new thinking on contemporary practice.

Related links

Research expertise

Neither design itself nor its curation are static disciplines and my research interests explore leadership in those fields. Interdisciplinary collaborative practice is a key area of expertise developed through innovative curating briefs, drawing on long experience as a design historian, writer and curator.

Dream Lab is the name of a series of science/design projects developed in collaboration with the Science Museum, The Royal College of Art and the British Council. Dream Lab was selected for the British Council's UK Now Festival in China 2012.

Project Design Africa explores the potential of partnership projects with contemporary African makers. The current project Building Baskets in Zimbabwe was selected for the Architecture and Design Showcase 2012, the British Council's Olympiad Festival in London.

MOU with British Council Harare to develop entrepreneurial design projects in Zimbabwe, the first focusing on UK/Zimbabwe knowledge exchanges.

CURATING BIS commissioned from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills BIS to curate the Ministerial Waiting Rooms for VIPs in the Victoria Street building.

Guest Curator for the first Beijing Design Week China 2011 – What Design Can Do in 751 D-Zone.

Curating Contemporary Design, Ashgate, 2013

Teaching areas & responsibilities

Established and leads the MA Curating Contemporary Design course in collaboration with the Design Museum London. The course celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011 and was the first curating design course to be established. Regarded as a pioneer course in the creative sector it is unique in the world, attracting international students who have gone on to transform the global field of design curation. It combines innovative content with a strong reputation within the sector and is frequently cited as an example of innovative good practice. The projects the course is pioneering overseas are shaping new ways of forming international networks benefiting UK and overseas students .

Professional activity

  • 2011 - presentElected member ICOM UK Committee
  • 2011 - presentExternal Examiner, Bath University
  • 2008 - 2012Former Chair & Committee Member, The Making
  • 2007 - 2012Former Chair & Committee Member, The Stanley Picker Gallery
  • 2006 - 2010External Examiner, Birmingham University

Conferences & events

Curating conferences: Curating Science Wellcome Trust 2011, Collecting Contemporary Design 2012, Curating in China 2013.

International partnerships: China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, Hong-ik University, Seoul.

UK partnerships: Science Museum, Design Museum, Royal College of Art.


What Design Can Do, Beijing Design Week 2011, Building Baskets

Named by British Council as Project Leader for Dream Lab.

Leads Project Kingston Africa, an interdisciplinary project with The Faculty of Business and Law which delivers design practice research outcomes and exhibitions with an African partner


Consultant Curator - Design Council's Design Summit
Creatives in Residence programme The Hospital Club London
Professional Development project - Zimbabwe designers and makers exchange with UK creatives
Bauhaus Project – Kingston staff and students curating project for the Bauhaus Institute Dessau
Crafts Council development group

Grants, funding and awards

  • 2012Kingston University Social Enterprise Award
  • 2011ADM grant

Research groups & programmes

Research supervision

External research supervision

  • 2010William Summers
    Kingston University
  • 2008Maria Sachetti
    London College of Fashion


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