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Thanks to a number of digital interventions, the 11th annual DesignTO – Canada’s largest design festival – is still a go for 2021. While the Interior Design Show has been rescheduled for May, the festival’s series of events, window installations and exhibitions are still set to inundate the city with all things design – albeit, in many cases, in an online format. Appropriately enough, the theme for this year is “Distanced and Digital.”

As ever, there is a lot happening. Take a look below to read up on the DesignTO events and exhibitions that we’re looking forward to the most. Opening day is January 22, but remember: with the unpredictability of the pandemic, select events and exhibitions may be subject to change, so be sure to check in with DesignTO to ensure no last-minute modifications have been made.

DesignTO Digital Launch Party

DesignTO always kicks off with a party. This year, the celebration will be a little different. Instead of a shoulder-to-shoulder gathering, this year’s festival will host an online event with music from Maylee Todd, DJ Fly Lady Di and DJ Sigourney Beaver, so feel free to dance in your best, or just your sweats. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Wearable Art, Yaw Tony

Artist and designer Yaw Tony weaves colour, pattern and narrative into an idiosyncratic, maximalist aesthetic. For DesignTO, he’s built on Life Liveth in Me, his collection of printed scarves, creating bold nature-inspired prints in a collaboration with fashion designers Nana Bediako and Emefa Kuadey. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Quarantype

Toronto’s current housing boom isn’t its first. The postwar period marked an earlier era of explosive growth, with apartment buildings going up at a then-unprecedented rate. Abiding an impulse to leave her home and explore the city, photographer Lisa Stuve documented the names and unique typography adorning several of these residences, re-discovering the unique graphic design and typography of Toronto’s past. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Installations by Anony & Rainville-Sangaré Design Studios

Toronto lighting designer Anony has partnered with Montreal-based architecture and design firm Rainville Sangaré on a series of window installations, each one showcasing their collaborations with EQ3. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Usittik / Undress

Applying a Bauhaus-era approach to graphic design, Inuk artist and creative director Mark Bennett has deconstructed kakiniit – traditional Inuit tattoos – to create a series of expressive screen prints that are at once modern and rooted in a long-practiced art form. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Ask Me Anything: Jamie Wolfond

For 2021, DesignTO has adopted the AMA format and invited industrial designer Jamie Wolfond to take questions. Even better, Wolfond will be participating in one-on-one sessions, so DesignTOers can actually have a conversation with him – just be sure to book ahead. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Danish Desire

For those who are captivated by Danish design tradition, this roundtable talk featuring luminaries from the Canadian and Danish design communities will provide insight on the following topic: “What makes great design?” Subjects up for discussion include new technology, material use, training and apprenticeship, and formal schooling. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
DesignTO Symposium: Toward Inclusive Design

Design that’s truly accessible, inviting and accommodating of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, religions, ages and abilities may be the industry’s next big challenge. Tune in to hear designers, thinkers and innovators explore what that inclusive future looks like, and discuss how we can get there. Read more about here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Canada Modern

As Canadian illustrators adopted European styles, they imbued it with a distinctly North American – emphasis on the “north” – attitude that, over time, developed into a practice of graphic design all their own. See that style take shape through posters, pamphlets and other paraphernalia from between 1960 and 1985 commemorating major events including Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
COFO Design

Toronto designers COFO Design are opening up their new space at Stackt, exhibiting their latest alongside some of the city’s top designers and studios, including Stacklab, Dreamstate and more. And when you’re done viewing everything on hand, you can tour the LGA-designed Stackt Market, which Designlines named public space of the year in 2020. Learn more here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Work/Life

A consistent standout at DesignTO, Umbra’s annual Work/Life exhibition has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Each of the eight pieces, from a quickly installed “satellite shelf” to a privacy screen, reflect the inconsistent boundaries of the new work-from-home reality, providing effective solutions in what these days are often makeshift spaces. As always, a jury will award best in show, while the public can vote for their favourite, too. Read more about it here.

Courtesy of DesignTO
Volatile Ecologies: Architectural Apparatuses for Earthly Survival

To put it mildly, industrialization hasn’t been kind to the environment, leaving in its wake oil spills, chemical runoffs, contaminated soil and other damaging waste. With the waterfront of nearby Buffalo, New York, as its backdrop, Volatile Ecologies imagines an alternative future where design doesn’t seek to overcome this challenge, but instead grapples with the consequences of our failure to do so. Read more about it here.

Toronto’s DesignTO Goes Digital: A Guide to 2021’s Must-Sees

A lot has changed for DesignTO’s 11th year, but the festival – dedicated to all-things-design – is still packed with things to see, do and experience.

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