Since 2011, DesignTO has featured a wealth of talent through our annual festival. This Artist + Designer Spotlight series gives our audience the chance to learn more about the creatives showcasing their work in DesignTO’s thematic and prototype exhibitions, symposium and talks.


Maya Mahgoub Desai

How would you describe your practice?

My academic research and urban design practice is focused on public health, cultural narratives and socio-ecological models of urban development; and inclusion and decolonization in design studio pedagogy. My current research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC/CRSH) and investigates themes related to human-environment behaviour; public health and public space design and policy; and inclusive and approaches to community collaboration in urban planning.

Which exhibition, symposium or talk will you be participating in and what is it about this project that peaked your interest?

DesignTO Symposium: Towards Inclusive Design

What can attendees expect from the project you are showcasing at the 2021 DesignTO Festival? For those unable to visit your work, how would you describe it to them?

I will be co-presenting with architect Veronica Madonna on Inclusivity in Design Education. Our talk will focus on (1) the decolonization of design pedagogy and the academy; and (2) virtual forms of education to facilitate greater access and inclusivity. The following critical questions will be explored: What does it mean to be inclusive in design education? How can the ideas of a global studio provide design education for an inclusive world and increase collaboration and connectivity? How can we challenge dominant design practices and better reflect diverse lived experiences? Furthermore, what are the new challenges and opportunities envisioned for a post-Covid world?

How long have you been involved with DesignTO?

Although I have had the pleasure of attending several DesignTO events, this will be the first in which I will be participating. I’m grateful to DesignTO for the opportunity to share ideas with fellow designers and the public at large.

As an artist/designer working in Canada, what role do you feel DesignTO plays in the art and design industry?

DesignTO plays a critical role in creating connections among a diverse group of designers; engaging the public in design discourse; and showcasing innovation across design disciplines.


Hear Maya Mahgoub Desai, Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Design, OCAD University, speak about inclusive design at the sixth annual DesignTO Symposium, January 27–28, 2021 | 6-8pm.