Toronto Design Offsite Festival


Here’s a lovely little festival that already got big in its short 3 years of existence and has a bright future in perspective. The genre is design, in all its forms and disciplines – and interdisciplines -, the place is Toronto, the time is mid-January and the length is 7 days. Here’s how Toronto Design Offsite Festival is described on the festival website:

“Toronto Design Offsite (TO DO) is a not-for-profit, indie design festival happening annually at the end of January. TO DO’s aim is to provide exposure for local and national designers; to foster public understanding and knowledge of the practice of design; and to create an ongoing presence that promotes Canada’s creativity, drawing on great thinkers, practitioners, and educators to a deliver an innovative celebration of art and design.”

I got involved through Zahra Ebrahim, of ArchiTEXT and the Design Walkin – whom I first met in a cake-loving capacity, when she was touring West End bakeries for her Jane’s Walk – and ended up helping out with volunteer management. TO DO grew from 6 events in its first year to 20 in its second and over 40 in its 3rd. They just incorporated as a non-profit, and they’re doing a great job of collaborating with existing networks and organizations, such as BIAs and professional membership-based associations. The whole festival is a remarkable balancing act between creative control from the talented team and creative licence given to the participants – designers, artists, architects and retailers, as well as initiatives such as Trade School Toronto.

And why ‘offsite’ rather than simply “festival”? That’s because TO DO is the ‘fringe’ counterpart of Toronto’s Interior Design Show, an established professional fair now owned by event production company Informa Canada. Which makes me think that I should look at the Fringe phenomemon for a future post – and also that I’d love to get answers to my ‘5 Questions’ from TO DO organisers Jeremy, Deborah and Gelareh, to get their view on what it’s like to invent such a fresh and fun festival.

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