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Deadline: September 21, 2018

Going into its fourth year, Work/Life (formerly Compact Living) is an annual exhibition organized by the Toronto Design Offsite Festival in partnership with Umbra. A dozen new prototypes by Canadian designers are shown each year at the Umbra Store during the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. Previously run by invitation only, this year Work/Life is structured as an open call for any Canadian designer (living here or abroad) to submit.

About the exhibition

Showcasing the work of Canadian designers, Work/Life is an exhibition that explores fresh and original housewares and working products for contemporary life.

Work/Life will run during the annual city-wide Toronto Design Offsite Festival, January 18-27, 2019. All selected prototypes will also be considered for addition to Umbra’s growing roster of quality products, to be manufactured, distributed, and sold through the Umbra brand, with royalty. For example, The Bolo Planter by Simone Ferkul, a prototype from the 2017 exhibition, is now produced by Umbra and available for purchase.

Call for submissions

Half of the world’s population now lives in urban centres where real estate is expensive and space is hard to come by. In Toronto alone, average condo sizes have shrunk by over 100 square feet over the last ten years. This has resulted in a trend towards making small spaces more livable and efficient. At the same time, the nature of work has changed drastically. We no longer work 9-5 in standard office spaces. For the knowledge industry, co-working spaces and home offices have proliferated. The boundaries between work, home, and “life” are hard to define.

In being mindful of contemporary living, Work/Life invites designs for innovative houseware and workware that consider opportunities for multiple functions, storage, space efficiency, personalization, dual utility, entertaining, and other hybrid and micro-living concerns. The exhibition invites designers to think about the whole environment that we live and work in, and welcomes creative responses to the theme.

Submissions will be juried in October. Designers who are selected will be required to produce a prototype of their submitted design and ship the prototype to Toronto in December for showcase in the exhibition in January. Exhibition fees will be paid to designers selected for the exhibition. Exact dates for the prototype submission and ancillary information will be provided.

Design considerations

Submissions of new work is preferred and strongly encouraged; however, we will consider submissions of work that have not been publicly displayed before.

All submissions must include the following:

  1. A description of the product (max. 200 words) — please be sure to include the following details: title, function, materials, dimensions;
  2. a short bio on you and/or your creative practice (max. 150 words);
  3. 2-3 images of the prototype, such as a digital rendering, drawing, or sketch (max. 1MB per image);
  4. Your
    1. contact info (name, email, phone number, mailing address), and
    2. website URL and/or social media handles (if available);
  5. Signed copy of Umbra’s Design Submission Agreement (in PDF format) — download the agreement here.

Click here to submit


All submissions are due Friday, September 21, 2018 by 11:59pm EST.

How much does it cost?

There is no fee for this submission or for participating in the Prototype Exhibition. However, if selected, you will be responsible for arranging drop-off and pick-up of your prototype to the Umbra Store, 165 John Street, Toronto. Exhibition fees will be paid to designers selected for the exhibition.

When and where is the exhibition?

The exhibition will open Friday, January 18 and run until Sunday, January 27, 2019. An opening reception will be held during Festival Week (date to be announced). The exhibition and reception will be held at the Umbra Store, 165 John Street, Toronto. We reserve the right to modify dates if required.

What happens next?

Successful submissions will be notified by email the week of October 15, 2018.


Email any questions to Programs Coordinator Carmen Douville at [email protected] with this subject line: Prototype Exhibition + your name.

About Umbra

Umbra brings thought and creativity to everyday items through original design. Great design comes from fresh creativity and Umbra is committed to nurturing new talent by collaborating with new and emerging designers. Each Umbra product is an original design with the name of the designer recognized on the product.

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