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Deadline: September 20, 2019

Going into its fifth year, ‘Work/Life’ is an annual exhibition organized by DesignTO in partnership with Umbra. A dozen new prototypes by Canadian designers are shown each year at the Umbra Store during the DesignTO Festival. ‘Work/Life’ invites any Canadian designer (living here or abroad) to submit to this open call for submissions.

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 DesignTO Festival, January 17-26, 2020. 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 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, while living costs continue to rise. Space becomes increasingly precious, which has resulted in a trend towards making small spaces more livable and efficient. At the same time, the nature of work has changed drastically. Many people no longer work 9-5 in standard office spaces. With innovations in technology that make remote working possible, co-working spaces and home offices have proliferated. As our ideas of working and living continue to be redefined, the boundaries between work and life have become harder to distinguish.

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. 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. Applicants can submit more than one entry; one submission per form.

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

* Only submissions through the online form will be considered. *


All submissions are due Friday, September 20, 2019 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, at your own cost. Exhibition fees will be paid to designers selected for the exhibition.

When does the prototype need to be done?

The prototype does not need to be made when submitting to the call. Designers who are selected will be required to produce a prototype of their submitted design and ship the prototype to Toronto in December. Additional details will be sent to successful applicants.

Who can apply?

All Canadian designers can apply. This includes Canadian living abroad, and anyone currently living in Canada. Students can apply as well.

When and where is the exhibition?

The exhibition will open Friday, January 17 and run until Sunday, January 26, 2020. 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, 2019.


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


Going into its fifth year, the prototype exhibition is a signature program of the annual DesignTO Festival, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing design culture. This exhibition is co-presented with Umbra.

Image credit: ‘Work/Life’ 2019, photo by Michael Madjus

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