DesignTO, formerly known as the Toronto Design Offsite Festival, celebrates all things design. Encompassing both visual arts and performances, it gives a platform to local and international artists to interact with wide audiences through the magic of their creativity.
Since 2011, DesignTO has been choreographing a design symphony that has tuned Toronto into a creative hub. It’s a testament to the sheer power and diversity of design, highlighting innovative minds, weaving together different genres, and juxtaposing unconventional concepts.
DesignTO 2024: Inspiring Current and Future Artists
DesignTO 2024 will take place from January 19-28, 2024 at various locations across Toronto.
The festival will feature over 100 exhibitions, talks, tours, workshops, and installations that explore industrial, interior, furniture experience, graphic design, architecture, and craft—making it Canada’s largest annual design festival, celebrating design as a multidisciplinary form of thinking and making.
What kinds of works and performances can we expect to see at DesignTO?
We’ve gathered some of the top artists and studios participating in this year’s festival—read their stories, glimpse their creative visions, and visit them at DesignTO 2024.
Modern Nest: Shifting the Landscape Of Contemporary Housing
Innovative and creative, this architectural firm has made its mark on Toronto’s urban landscape. Originating from the vision of a single architectural mastermind, Modern Nest has emerged as a significant player in introducing and promoting mid-market contemporary houses in downtown Toronto. Straying from the well-trodden path of proffering mass-built condo boxes, Modern Nest’s aspiration lies in creating efficient, light-filled modern homes that seamlessly combine aesthetics and function.
Their unique take on urban architectural concepts will be showcased at the DesignTO 2024 event Architect as Developer. Their walking tour and artist talk underpin how we might respond to the city’s need for contemporary houses that blend in with the neighborhood while standing apart. Interested parties located both within and outside of Toronto can register for free to join the talk online through the DesignTO event page. Keep up with this thriving, creative architectural firm through social media.
Adrienna Matzeg: Exploring Light and Memory Through Fiber Arts
An artist, designer, and researcher, Adrienna Matzeg’s work is informed by a deep nostalgia, and combines a range of analog and digital processes including weaving, screen printing and photographic mediums. A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with a major in photography, her current work uses punch needle embroidery compositions to celebrate the relationship between light, shadow, color and our memories. Throughout her process, Adrienna pays special attention to the way light and shadow shape objects, sometimes even creating 3D models to ensure she’s capturing the light accurately.
Her myriad body of work includes recent pieces in “Artifacts”, an exhibition that turns attention to the nature and beauty of textile and fiber artwork, which she also assisted in curating. Matzeg’s captivating textile art and product designs are further seen in her other vibrant projects, as can be explored on her website and Instagram profile–both a testament to her multidisciplinary approach.
Typically taking the form of wall art and occasionally appearing as exceptionally crafted rugs, her creations are unequivocally eye-catching in their use of color and composition, dredging up warm, sun filled memories of vacations abroad. Adrienna’s personal work has also been shown in the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, The Art With Heart Auction, and the Art Gems Auction.
Anony: Innovations in Lighting & Product Design
Anony is a lighting and product design studio based in Toronto, its team of collaborators including Christian Lo, David Ryan, Dragan Vuko, Wakako Yamaguchi, Hannah Cohen, Alex Semenov, and Mitchell Isenor. With an emphasis on combining local manufacturing capabilities, innovative technology, functionality, and craftsmanship, Anony has been a paragon of adaptable, sustainable design in Canada.
Their architecturally-inspired Pola Lighting Collection lends its warm but modern light to Milky’s coffee shop in Toronto, and is included in the DesignTO 2024 exhibition. Deceptively simple, the steel frame of the Pola lighting acts as both the structure and diffuser, allowing warm-hued light to flow through.
With a design process that takes the entire life cycle of their product into account, the team at Anony creates each object for longevity, considering every stage of the life of their products.
Designing products that last takes thoughtful and honest choices throughout the process, from material to production to the intended environment. The results are lighting and home decor that exude quality.Anony’s designs can be purchased in select locations throughout North America. For those who enjoy an intimate look at various aspects of process, from research and development to final execution, follow their journey on Instagram.
Shayla Bond: A Harmony of Color and Nature
Shayla Bond, Toronto-based illustrator and artist, originally hails from Kentville, Nova Scotia. Currently a full-time Freelancer in Illustration and Social Media Marketing, Bond graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in December 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Fashion & Textiles.
She is best known for her vibrant digital illustrations which feature detailed line-art and offset pops of color. She often works in a digital format, but finds meditation and escape in painting exact shape compositions in traditional mediums.
In ‘Beyond WADA – In Bloom,’ Bond pays homage to the groundbreaking work of Sanzo Wada (1883-1967). Wada’s ‘A Dictionary of Color Combinations’ offers a unique glimpse into traditional Japanese color perceptions, laying the groundwork for modern color theory. Through meticulous color mixing, Shayla takes these color combinations to new heights in her suspended display. The installation transforms Promise Supply windows and blends seamlessly with the vibrancy of Promise Supply’s tropical plant selection. Bond’s creation corresponds both with the surrounding foliage and color swatches from Wada’s book, manifesting as large-scale cutouts that delicately dangle and suspend from the ceiling in a cascade of color.
Recent collaborations include Inkbox, CASETiFY, and Lorette Lingerie. Also the founder of Esbe Studio, Shayla’s thoughtful approach to color and design across multiple mediums is highlighted within her Instagram account and the light and fresh layouts of her websites.
Brenda Mabel Reid: The Juxtaposition of Societal Barriers and Playful Creativity
Brenda Reid is an emerging non-binary multi-disciplinary artist who works and lives in Kitchener, ON, on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Six Nations. With a background in architectural studies, their body of work deals with the complexity of care relationships and thinking about ethics in urban living, often incorporating humorous elements.
Their practice regularly engages the public in collaborative art and learning experiences, from large-scale projects to interactive time-based installations. Currently, they are tackling questions of care through combinations of media, including textile, animation, printmaking, sound work, photography and sculpture.
Their DesignTO 2024 exhibition, “Just Can’t Get It Together,” illustrates their remarkable ability to connect their architectural background to their clever, thought-provoking approach to art. The exhibit is composed of hand-printed soft, plush-style building materials, including OSB, plywood and bricks alongside real-life construction materials in a playful and humorous juxtaposition. Brenda’s installation is deceptively light-hearted, utilizing the child-like materials while exploring questions about the barriers to affordable housing, scarcity, and a high “cost of living.”
For a glimpse into their process, follow Reid on Instagram to see sketches, work-in-progress updates, and day-to-day details of artist life.
Mezzaluna Studio: The Abstraction of Mid-Century Modern & Risograph Design
Designer Vikki Wiercinski launched Edmonton, Canada based Mezzaluna Studio in 2015 as a design studio focused on home + paper goods. Vikki studied Visual Communication Design at the University of Alberta before setting out as a designer in 2005, her European roots enriching the colorful, quirky style that takes the form of original abstract designs that are all her own.
Mezzaluna Studio’s distinct focus on modern abstract shape and color mixed with abstract mid century style takes the form of custom wallpaper, surface design and illustration. The studio also creates custom design work for publishers, and collaborates with architects on designers to create truly unique interiors, surface design, and architectural exteriors.
Further specializing in Risograph printing–samples of which fill their Instagram page–the studio offers these services to artists, writers, and organizations looking to visually communicate their stories in unique and vibrant ways. Their DesignTO 2024 display “Riso Ruckus” in the 313 Design Market window playfully displays cubes, each individually risograph printed and hand folded. Filling the space with geometry, color and joy, the installation introduces viewers to a new and dynamic spirit of printing, analog processes, and graphic design.
Eric Zdancewicz: Exploring the Boundaries of Fun & Function
Eric Zdancewicz is a Toronto based artist and designer exploring furniture, lighting and objects. His diverse portfolio showcases his dexterity, meticulous eye, and unabashed experimentation, which often defy common ideation and traditional constraints in the world of woodworking and furniture design. His approach blends both traditional and experimental techniques using a range of local and natural materials, and consistently showcases his flair for thinking outside the box.
Zdancewicz’s most recent creations–the Lîla Chair–perfectly encapsulates his philosophy towards design. On display in the windows of Peach Boy at DesignTO 2024, the artist’s inspiration is immediately recognizable, reminiscent of a widely encountered children’s toy that has pervaded doctors’ offices and waiting rooms since the 1980s. The chair was fabricated using a small selection of hand tools and recycled materials, and explores the balance between work and play in the studio, as well as in our living spaces.
Follow him on Instagram to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at Eric’s thought process, inspirations, and the effort put behind every project. As he continues to push boundaries and reinterpret the world through design, his work invites us all to explore the potential within the spaces we inhabit.
Janet Hinkle: Bridging Realities Through Art
Janet Hinkle is a contemporary artist whose work is a testament to unbridled creativity and uncharted exploration. She is a multi-faceted artist whose portfolio includes printmaking, ceramics, and digital media.
Janet uses an interdisciplinary approach to lend depth to her artistic endeavors. She juggles printmaking and hydraulically pressed clay to create unique pieces. This approach allows her work to maintain a tangible link to the physical world while still enabling exploration of the digital realm.
Janet’s DesignTO 2024 display “Shifting Grounds,” can be seen in the windows of Sovereign State. The interdisciplinary window display combines digital collage and sculpture to create an altered reality rooted in design. With a focus on form and function, Hinkle brings together traditional and contemporary forms that work together in a complementary and contrasting nature. Passersby are encouraged to interact with the installation through the use of a Meta Spark AR social media filter that places the user within the artwork.
Sun Drops Studio: Architectural Forms Meet “Women’s Work”
Sharl G. Smith is a Waterloo-based sculptor and former architectural professional, working primarily with bead-stitching as a means of exploring her identity, global themes of equity and care-based value systems. Born and raised in Jamaica, W.I., she moved to New York City where she obtained a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Sharl worked in the U.S.A as a designer and architectural professional for 12 years before moving to Canada and founding her creative endeavor, Sun Drops Studio. Her art practice and beadwork is informed by both her architectural background and training in various hand-crafted architecture through traditional Japanese Joinery.
Bead-stitching is the act of creating objects by stitching beads together, one or two at a time. Traditionally an art form tied to femininity and “women’s work,” Smith sees parallels in the process of beadwork and our diverse biological and sociological systems. Beginning as a jewelry artist, her journey has involved scaling up traditional beadwork techniques into life-sized public art, referring to herself as a bead architect. Sharl incorporates mirror-polished brass, stainless steel, and even blown glass spheres as beads, often utilizing stainless steel aircraft cable as thread. The scale of these industrial materials aims to increase visibility for an art form that remains largely under-appreciated.
Sun Drop Studio’s window display in Aquavato for DesignTO 2024, ‘Look,’ is a stunning example of her work. Through the shifting hues and tones from nearby viewers playing across reflective, curved surfaces, her artwork invites you to partake in the first phase of feminist care theory: orienting your attention. This includes active observation, listening and noticing.Explore more her complex, hand-crafted architectural sculptures and details from her creative process on the Sun Drops Studio Instagram.
What Will You Attend at DesignTO 2024?
We all know the power of good design; it impacts our everyday lives in ways so subtle we often don’t even notice it. However, at DesignTO, this power doesn’t go unnoticed. Instead, it is celebrated, nourished, and illuminated for ten glorious days a year in a festival filled with ideas, interactivity, and inspiration. Consider it an invitation to look at the world through a different lens and perceive the exquisite design in the ordinary.
Artists are, after all, the alchemists of the modern world, turning ordinary ideas into gold with their creativity. Mark your calendars, check out their full lineup for events that pique your interest, and get ready to be captivated by the creative professionals of DesignTO 2024.