Design Report from Canada

I’ve had a recent blogging hiatus as for the last two weeks I’ve been holidaying in Montreal and Toronto, taking in the sights and exposing myself to Canada’s culture, nature and a little of its design scene.

Canada’s rolling snow farms produce 53.8% of the world’s snow all year round…


There are some reassuringly global trends in both education and practice around service design. On the educational side, there’s plenty beginning to emerge, if it is a bit behind the UK.

I was invited to the final exhibition of the Design Management course at Georgebrown University, where I was lucky enough to meet Luigi Ferrara, head of the design school and also course director of the Institute Without Boundaries, set up by Bruce Mau and something I have mentioned many times on this blog. The importance of making sure design processes are introduced to help solve the world’s largest and most complex problems is something I can’t possibly stress enough.

There’s also an emerging appetite for design thinking in business education. Designworks consultancy-cum-MA at the Rotman Business School, UoT is led by Roger Martin, who recently released The Opposable Mind; sorry I have no personal review (it’s on order!) but there’s a good outline in this interview.

Sorry to repeat a phrase that’s everywhere at the moment, but in ‘these financially difficult times’, of particular interest was the Design Exchange in Toronto, performing a similar function to the Design Council in the UK but also maintaining two large exhibition spaces, which the DC jettisoned a long time ago to pursue its status as the UK government’s design ‘do tank’.


The comparison between the magnificent old Toronto Exchange building, once powering the economy, and its new role housing exhibitions on urban farming and the connections between architecture and quality of life and well-being were striking. The beautiful art deco trading floor is now empty and quiet, occasionally home to events more concerned with different definitions of value and currency.

I really believe that we’re at a crossroads of both the economy and the environment, and the two can no longer be largely opposed in their values, goals and effects. Canada in particular is streets ahead in some parts in its awareness of the environment and miles ahead in others.


We in the UK should be proud of our progress and status in the field of service design, but never complacent. Canada is just one of many places catching up quickly, accelerating its progress with the increasingly intricate mesh of networking and ideas exchange online. Moreover, it has a lot to teach us about establishing a culture of heightened environmental consciousness.