The DesignTO Festival Kicks off January 19.
Check out the Must-Sees Here

[January 2024, Toronto] Ready, set, let’s go! The curatorial team behind the 14th edition of the DesignTO Festival is ready to show you the projects its wide-ranging network of architects, artists, designers, educators, and advocates have been working so diligently on this past year. Join the thousands that turn out annually in the Canadian cold to attend parties, talks, and exhibitions taking place in 100 venues across Toronto between January 19 and 28. It’s design week in the city and there is inspiration, information, and fun to be had by all.

Canada’s largest design festival was initiated in 2011 and has been growing in breadth and scope ever since. The 10-day celebration of all things design boasts over 100 free curated exhibitions and events that aim to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for design’s role in creating a sustainable, just, and joyful world. From debate-igniting speakers to delightful window installations, from dining events to architectural tours and craft shows, DesignTO engages the public with countless examples of personal expression and big picture problem-solving. Access our press page to register for your media badge, peruse the schedule, and plan to see it all.

‘Crack in the Case’ by elsewhere Collective at Nuit Blanche Toronto, 2023. Courtesy of the artists.

Not sure where to start? Along with DesignTO Festival staples, like the annual ‘DesignTO Launch Party’, the symposium ‘DesignTO Talks: Dematerialized’, and prototype exhibition ‘Lucid Ideas’, the festival line-up also showcases 12 must-sees below – what we’re calling the Hit Parade. These are organized by theme. If you are looking for more suggestions, or something specific, our team is happy to help point you in the right direction. Contact us here.

The Hit Parade

Blood, Water & Bathurst Street
Jan 19-28; exhibition | Free

This participatory, textile-based mapping project by Naomi Daryn Boyd explores the histories, communities, and journeys that have shaped these lands. The map surveys Bathurst Street and its geographic surroundings, from the current shoreline of Niigani-Gichigami (Lake Ontario) up to Steeles Avenue (the City of Toronto’s northern boundary). The wool scroll offers a highly focused reading of an often-underappreciated swath of this vast metropolis. Part family tree, topographic exploration, material research, and – with growing contributions from visitors – the map is a community-sourced historical document.

BW&B installed on College Street, May 2023, with FENTSTER gallery. Photograph by Sarita Esi.

Urban Canvas: Empowering Youth Through Public Art and Creative Media
Jan 21; in-person talk | Free RSVP

Youths have the potential to make meaningful contributions to the design processes of communities and cities and in a multicultural hub like Toronto, it is important to create inclusive and vibrant urban spaces, particularly for those from underrepresented families and communities. This panel discussion, organized by Urban Minds and featuring a diverse group of experts, including urban planners, artists, and community organizers, will explore case studies and best practices that have effectively harnessed art to embed diverse youth voices in community building.


Allusions: An approach to history, context and craft
Jan 25; in-person talk | Free RSVP

Odami is an architectural and interior design studio founded in 2017 by Spanish architect Aránzazu González Bernardo and Canadian designer Michael Fohring. Their interior design for Aesop Yorkville takes its cues from the downtown area’s architectural and societal history, starting with the Victorian houses that populate the neighbourhood, and the lanes and squares where communities have gathered over the decades. This discussion will uncover the design studio’s sensibilities, focus of their practice, and inspiration. 

‘What If I Can Use It?’, courtesy of Jennifer Kerbel Poirier.

What If I Can Use It?
Jan 18-28; exhibition | Free

Let’s challenge the traditional boundaries between art and function. This exhibition brings together a half dozen ceramic-based artists whose sculptural objects are also usable. Each piece encourages viewers to think critically about how we categorize and evaluate art and what value we ascribe to different forms of creative expression. Their work will be displayed at the in-studio furniture showroom of designer Ashley Botten, whose own handcrafted objects for the home have ended up serving a different purpose altogether.


Future Matters
Jan 19-Apr 28; exhibition | Free

Materials carry complex narratives and histories are embedded within them. ‘Future Matters’ is a group exhibition featuring the multidisciplinary work of eight local and international artists and designers exploring themes related to material expression, innovation, and environmental sustainability, featuring Yassine Ben Abdallah, Nada Al-Obaidi, Safaa Alnabelseya, Sonny Assu, Morgan Possberg Denne, Julia Rose Sutherland, Cole Swanson, and Elaine Whittaker.

Yassine Ben Abdallah. ‘The Bittersweet Memory of the Plantation’, 2022. Photo by Florian Lafosse.

Design Collection Opening Party @ STACKT
Jan 20; party | Free

Celebrate a dozen exhibitions and installations by designers at North America’s largest shipping container market with a free opening party. In addition to a special interactive exhibition in the studio with a bar and music design highlights include a photo exposition, cascading installations of ceramic flowers, a memory-collecting bubble wall, and sculptural furniture.


Pretty Secrets — PS: I<3U
Jan 19-28; exhibition | Free

Here’s a cheeky invitation to peek into the minds and desires of a dozen emerging artists and designers. This group is composed of makers from Canada, the United States and China, all under the age of 25. Each designer pulls inspiration from personal cultural diasporic craft techniques with a grounded relationship to the materials they choose to work with. They believe the future of design is in the hands of those who can work by peering backwards while still envisioning the future. 

Pretty Secrets, New York City.

Jan 25-31; exhibition | Free

Long-time DesignTO exhibitor, Mjölk – a shop favoured for its expert curation of modern, international furniture and housewares – debuts three new works during the Festival: Luca Nichetto’s Nassa Vase draws inspiration from Murano’s glass making heritage and the piece employs traditional glass-cutting and polishing techniques to create window-like features within the glass; Thom Fougere Arm sofa, whose solid wood frame, blend of webbing, foam, and down salutes the enduring appeal of classic, honest forms; and, also from Fougere, comes a brass and mulberry paper wall light drawing inspiration from the mechanical design of a record player. 


Juliet: A Journey From Verona
Jan 19-27; exhibition | Free

Designed by interior designers REPUBLIC OF II BY IV in collaboration with furniture retailer Suite 22, the international award-winning ‘Juliet’ collection is comprised of a dining chair, counter stool, and bar stool. Crafted in Verona, Italy, these pieces draw inspiration from the iconic tale of Romeo and Juliet and pays homage to the city’s rich history. The designers will share the manufacturing process of the collection in a way that underscores the important conversations they face throughout the design process, from concept through production, providing a testimonial to timeless design, exceptional craftsmanship, and sustainability. 

‘Pola Lighting Collection’ by Anony

Pola Lighting Collection
Jan 19-28; exhibition | Free

Illuminating local coffee shop, Milky’s, is the latest collection from Toronto lighting design studio, Anony. Called ‘Pola’, the collection features a floor lamp, table lamp, sconce, pendant, and cluster all in a brushed nickel finish and all inspired by arches and structures often seen in architecture. Meaning “half,” Pola is equal parts light and heavy, hard, and soft. What looks to be an enclosed form reveals the frame acting as both the structure and diffuser, allowing warm light to flow through to its surroundings in a glowing arc. 


Agency of the Designer in the Age of AI
Jan 22-28; exhibition | Free

This exhibition showcases the intersection of artificial intelligence and design, featuring a virtual reality representation of a futuristic world, film compilations highlighting AI’s impact on visual media, and research projects by Latent Object Limited. To open the exhibit there will be a public discussion, both online and in person, between representatives from the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture in London, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, and the University of Toronto. Attendees can view the exhibition IRL through a VR headset on site. 

‘Agency of the Designer in the Age of AI’

Made by Humans
Jan 19-28; exhibition | Free

Inspired by the increasing use of AI in design landscapes, this work questions where the boundaries lie (or if they exist at all) in defining handmade creations amidst technological influence. Does the integration of technology enrich or diminish the “human-made” essence in the creative process? Beginning as a meticulously crocheted, handmade creation, the piece then exposes the behind-the-scenes process, allowing viewers to evaluate the often-unseen role of technology existing alongside artisan craft.

The Festival happens online and in-person at venues across the City of Toronto. Most events and exhibitions are free, but some require a RSVP or purchased tickets. All window installations are viewable from the outdoors.

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About DesignTO

DesignTO is a non-profit organization that curates exhibitions, presentations, and educational programming to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation of design and its role in creating a sustainable, just and joyful world.

DesignTO is best known for the DesignTO Festival, Canada’s leading and largest annual design festival that celebrates design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making. The festival brings the public together with over 100 exhibitions and events that form Toronto’s design week every January. | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | X (TWITTER) | LINKEDIN

For additional information, visual assets, and to set up interviews, contact Michael Madjus at [email protected].