This time, I’m asking my ‘5 Questions‘ to the Toronto Design Offsite Festival team, who concluded their 3rd festival just a few weeks ago (21-27 January 2013). Deborah Wang, Creative Director, Gelareh Saadatpajouh, R&D Director, and Jeremy Vandermeij, Executive Director, created this platform to encourage local innovation and collaboration and to share their love of design with the Toronto public.
1. Hi Deborah, Gelareh and Jeremy! Your next festival is in January 2014. What’s a typical day right now?
Gelareh: A typical day involves research, gathering ideas, brainstorming, and reading about other festivals and design thinkers in the world. A big part of the research component is focused on the crowdfunding campaign that we are developing at the moment. Although March has been quite slow comparing to the month of January, it is an exciting time of the year when we stir the pot for ideas : )
Deborah: Things have definitely slowed down after the festival, but we are gearing up for our crowdfunding campaign and starting to get things going for 2014. The great thing about now is that we have some time to think about what we want to do next year and make some tweaks to what we already have before launching into production.
2. You’ve been organising TO DO for 3 years now. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?
Jeremy: Although it’s challenging, delegating tasks to team members and volunteers does get easier each year. As well, managing the sheer volume of work and learning to relax during the festival get easier. Keeping on top of the more mundane parts of production do not get easier over time, but I think (hope?) that I am successful at it most of the time. The key is to find new ways of doing things and creating new engaging parts of the festival.
3. Before, during or after the festival – what’s your favourite moment, the one that makes it all worth it?
Jeremy: I really love when I hear someone I don’t know personally talking about how great the festival is – and when event organizers and participants get really excited about what they’re producing and what they’ve accomplished. The most rewarding part by far is creating a space for this community and watching it grow.
Gelareh: Well, I love it all – the whole process of designing the festival, and the collaborative spirit that carries through the festival week in late January. February, March feels like “what just happened, let’s plant the seed for next year”. May, June, July: life is good — organizing thoughts and the game plan. August is “oh, September is coming”. September is “Hello world, let’s collaborate and make the festival happen”. October and November is “Wow, the list is growing”. December is too short, it doesn’t count as a month. January is when the whole city talk design, walk design, dress, eat, and celebrate design. It’s my favourite time of the year when all the pieces come together with every event and exhibition pulsing their creative energy to the rest of the city. It’s definitely an exciting part of the process.
4. What other festival would you love to attend as audience member?
Jeremy: I would really love to attend the London Design Festival, particularly to see their public space installations.
Deborah: We’ve been really inspired by the Design Week Portland video, and since they are a city of similar size to Toronto, it would be great to see what they are doing and how. Of course, I would also love to visit established Design Weeks in cities like London and Milan.
Gelareh: I would go to Copenhagen anytime of the year for inspiration. Visiting Amsterdam, London and Milan during their design festivals is like having a glance at the global design scene while each city bring their attention to their local community and their unique design excellency. Wanted Design happening in New York city is on my list for this spring.
5. Can you tell me a bit more about your plans for TO DO 2014?
Jeremy: For 2014 we’re expecting a huge amount of growth in terms of events and audience. We’d really like to produce our own event so we’ve been brainstorming a ton of ideas, including our own exhibition, a design market and self-produced talks, lectures or workshops.
Deborah: In addition to continuing with everything that’s part of the festival thus far, including our TO DO Awards presented by Herman Miller for example, we’d like to introduce a student component to the festival, and engage more cultural institutions, design businesses and independent designers.
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