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OCAD U partners with Cadillac Fairview to open design incubator

A person stands in a gallery space filled with simple wooden furniture and artwork on the walls.

The DESIGNwith studio brings together academia, corporations and community to make learning and design more accessible through public research, workshops, and exhibitions 

With a commitment to community and sustainability, OCAD University has partnered with Cadillac Fairview (CF) to launch a new design incubator in Toronto, founded by Associate Professor Ranee Lee. Opening June 23 at 5 p.m., the DESIGNwith studio at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, will bring together a diverse range of designers, students and community members, and serve as a dedicated learning lab to explore the circular economy for creating lasting social good.

“We’re thrilled to extend our collaboration with Cadillac Fairview following the success of last year’s CF Art Corridor Project on Yonge Street, which made public art more accessible to the community,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano. “With this new initiative, we’re excited to create a place where the public can learn more about the impact design has on everyday items through hands-on learning and workshops.”


Strengthening the Fabric of Our Community and Planet

Located on Level 2 in the CF Eaton Centre (between the Dundas Street station entrance and Canadian Tire), the studio will function daily as an incubator space for OCAD U students, a student resident, designers and community members who will use the space to research, learn, and share their exploration of the circular economy through classes, research and hands-on design. Throughout the year, DESIGNwith will open to the public for ticketed events, starting with a sneaker-making workshop, a circular design student exhibition and natural-dyeing classes.

“As an OCAD University instructor, it’s always a delight to see my students get out into the community and do work for the social good,” says Lee, DESIGNwith's founder. “The studio will also be an opportunity to level the playing field for learning and design, which are often inaccessible for many within our own city. We’re grateful to Cadillac Fairview for opening up this significant community space to us, as it is truly only by approaching community differently that we can expect to achieve different results.”

The vision for creating a space that minimizes ecological impact also helped influence its design. The 635-square-foot studio was built with 40 per cent repurposed materials thanks to the thoughtful design from partners Design Workshop Architects. These elements were salvaged from other CF locations and previously used store fixtures, including the front doors and windows as well as the track lighting inside.

“We’re proud to open the DESIGNwith studio alongside our passionate partners, showcasing the powerful social impact we can achieve together,” says Jason Anderson, Senior Vice President, Brand & Marketing, Cadillac Fairview. “This is a first-of-its kind experience for Cadillac Fairview and as long-standing city builders, we’re excited that one of our largest retail properties in the world can purposely serve our community as the common ground for thoughtful design, research and knowledge sharing.”

Students and Professionals Innovating Together

Among the makers and designers who are part of the DESIGNwith studio are Katya Koroscil, DESIGNwith intern, and Ernesto Ramirez, a furniture design intern from Durango, Mexico; both students are in their third year of industrial design at OCAD University.  Both students co-designed a furniture collection for use in the incubator space with Industrial Design Professor Ranee Lee and Lee Fletcher, the founding partner at Fig40 and principal at Fletcher Scott Studio. The studio furniture pieces are designed with sustainability, flexibility and affordance in mind, and are made with easy-to-use dimensional lumber and readily available fasteners. This achieves the goal of sharing designs that are producible for anyone, by anyone.

Also joining the space is DESIGNwith's student resident, Deanna Badi – an industrial designer with a focus on environmental sustainability. Badi is working on grant-funded research to produce a biodegradable, water-repellent solution for natural fibre outerwear jackets she designs and sews herself.

One of the first workshops to be hosted at the DESIGNwith studio will be led by footwear designer Nelson Silva, who has more than 20 years of professional experience in the field and focuses on sustainability and innovation in footwear. His five-week sneaker workshop will use upcycled fabrics for shoe-making, as part of DESIGNwith’s goal of democratizing design and knowledge through teaching and making. These workshops are open to the public, but half of the seats will be offered to marginalized community members and students ensuring equity and inclusion.

To learn more about DESIGNwith and how to get involved with participating community organizations or attend workshops, please visit