For 1-forms, you can get some intuition for exterior differentiation from how it shows up in Frobenius's theorem which states that a distribution D is integrable if and only if the ideal of differential forms that are annihilated by it is closed under exterior differentiation:

Let $\alpha$ be a 1-form on $M$. If $\alpha$ does not vanish, then ker $\alpha_x$ is a hyperplane in the tangent space to $M$ at $x$. Thus ker $\alpha$ is a hyperplane field in $TM$ (and is an example of a distribution). At every point in M, you should visualize a hyperplane passing through that point.

Frobenius's theorem gives conditions on whether this hyperplane field is integrable, that is, if one can fit the planes together to form a foliation by hypersurfaces in $M$. For a hyperplane field defined by a single 1-form one can fit the planes together if and only if $d\alpha$ mod $\alpha$ is zero. This is usually expressed by the vanishing of $\alpha\wedge d\alpha$.

(In the general case, where instead of $\alpha$ we have a set of linearly independent 1-forms $\{\alpha_j\}_{j=1}^r$, the *ideal* in the algebra of differential forms on $M$ generated by $\{\alpha_j\}_{j=1}^r$ must be *closed under exterior differentiation*; equivalently $d\alpha_j\wedge\alpha_1\wedge\cdots\wedge\alpha_r=0$ for all $j$).

Two simple examples:

(1) if $\alpha=df$ then the field of hyperplanes ker $\alpha$ is actually tangent to the hypersurfaces $f=$const (and of course $d\alpha=0$).

(2) If $\alpha = g df$ for some non-vanishing function $g$, e.g. $\alpha=ydx$ in the upper half plane of $\mathbb{R}^2$, then this is just as good, since ker $\alpha$ is still tangent to $f=$const. Note that $d\alpha=dg\wedge df=(dg/g)\wedge\alpha$, which vanishes mod $\alpha$ and thus $\alpha\wedge d\alpha=0$.

Hence $\alpha\wedge d\alpha$, or $d\alpha$ mod $\alpha$ roughly measures how far this hyperplane field defined by ker $\alpha$ is from being tangent to hypersurfaces.

(I got the ideas from Appendix B of Ivey and Landsberg's book *Cartan for Beginners*. Thanks to Marcos Cossarini and Ben McKay for pointing out in the comments that the original version of this was wrong!)

Here's an example of a hyperplane field which is not tangent to any hypersurfaces. $\alpha = dz-y dx$ on $\mathbb R^3$ and $\alpha\wedge d\alpha = dz\wedge dx \wedge dy$: