Key Industry Sectors

Design

Umbra's award-winning Concept Store, designed by Kohn Shnier Architects. Named 2007 ARIDO Project of the Year and awarded the 2007 Design Exchange Gold for Architecture, Silver for Interior Design.

The largest critical mass of expertly trained designers in Canada, coupled with high creativity Toronto is a highly developed environment for selling design innovation and commercialization around the globe. In the six disciplines of design - architecture, landscape architecture, interior, industrial, graphic and fashion design - Toronto innovators are winning acclaim as they help build global brands, make companies more competitive, plan sustainable communities, enhance quality of life and provide the imaginative fuel for future growth.

The success of Toronto's design cluster arises from the convergence of high creativity and problem-solving skills of an expertly trained design workforce, sophisticated clients and the quality standards that have evolved from competitive and co-operative creative endeavours.

Success by design

  • With over 27,970 designers, Toronto has the largest design workforce in Canada and the third largest in North America (after New York and Boston).
  • Toronto is home to 27% of all Canadian designers.
  • Toronto's design labour force grew by 3.7% from 1991 to 2006, while the overall labour force grew by 1.6% in the same period.
  • Designers have higher levels of post-secondary education (university or college) than the overall workforce: 34% of designers have a university degree as compared to only 22% and the design sector is engaged in continual training and upgrading, prompting continuous improvement.
  • Toronto has the largest design workforce in Canada and the third largest in North America (after New York and Boston).

Centre of Canada's design economy

"Toronto is unquestionably at the centre of Ontario's and Canada's design economy with the largest absolute and relative number of design workers and design establishments in the province and the nation."
– The Place of Design: Exploring Ontario's Design Economy, March 2009; Martin Prosperity Institute

Design employment in Canadian cities, 2006

Source: Martin Prosperity Institute, The Place of Design: Exploring Ontario's Design Economy, (March 2009), p. 18. Statistics Canada, author's calculations.

71 % of Ontario's architects, landscape architects, industrial, graphic and interior designers are located in Toronto.

RankLocationAll Designers
1 Toronto 27,970
2 Ottawa-Gatineau 3,920
3 Hamilton 2,145
4 Kitchener 1,305
5 London 1,140

Source: Martin Prosperity Institute, The Place of Design: Exploring Ontario's Design Economy, (March 2009), p. 19

Homegrown talent

Toronto designers prove that the city fosters the ideal balance of design skills, innovative thinking and marketing acumen by making the companies that use their services more successful.

  • Toronto-native Zac Ridgely of Ridgely Studio Works uses an arts-meets-function kind of sensibility in his interior lighting designs. His "Luster" sconces and chandelier which hang from the Vanity nightclub in Las Vegas, incorporate found materials including aluminum and other materials.
  • Umbra is a multinational brand with more than 250 employees in offices from Toronto to Amsterdam and Hong Kong. Its $160 million in sales are driven by iconic items such as the Garbino trash can.
  • Cecconi Simone is an acclaimed Toronto-based interior design firm with over 25 years of experience and a proven ability to provide creative, multi-disciplinary design solutions. Their award-winning work with clients from the hospitality, development, financial, corporate and governmental sectors has earned them a reputation as one of North America’s most respected design firms.
  • The jewellery collections designed by Foxy Originals are sold in boutiques throughout the world, and adored by a host of celebrities. Foxy Originals is a proudly Canadian company – each piece is designed and manufactured in Toronto.
  • Yabu Pushelberg is a world-renowned Toronto-based interior design firm, established over 20 years ago. The firm's more than 80 employees in offices in Toronto and New York have completed award-winning upscale hotel and retail projects in locations such as Dubai, New York, Hong Kong and San Francisco.
  • Corus Quay, the new Toronto headquarters for Corus Entertainment was designed by world-renowned, Toronto-based architect Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt Architects. The interior was outfitted by Quadrangle Architects Ltd., an expert in broadcast architectural design. The facility is environmentally advanced and has targeted LEED® Gold Certification. Corus Quay features a significantly reduced power signature, a five-storey bio wall for air filtration, a green roof and energy efficient lighting.
  • Mariclaro is a Toronto-based sustainable design company that focuses on fashion and accessories. From bags made of car upholstery to jackets made from exploded airbags, earrings from 8mm film and bike tubes, Mariclaro designs are all one-of-a-kind pieces handmade in Toronto from recycled materials.
  • For listings of Toronto stores that carry at least 50% locally designed products visit www.toronto.ca/shoptoronto.

Industrial mix of Toronto's design workforce

Designers work in almost every sector of Toronto's economy, contributing to the success of companies in a wide range of fields.

Support systems

  • All four universities and numerous colleges in Toronto offer design programs that ensure a wealth of highly skilled graduates, educating over 3,000 students per year.
  • York University and Ryerson University both offer master's degree programs in design. Industry associations provide ongoing skills training programs for practicing designers making Toronto a fertile ground for design innovation and commercialization.
  • Influential design trade shows/conferences include IIDEXCanada, DesignThinkers, World MasterCard Fashion Week, and the Interior Design Show.
  • Together with all levels of government the associations work on the Design Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC) to deliver sector-wide advocacy and support. DIAC is a design research think-tank established by the City of Toronto in 2001.
  • The Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC), is a non-government, not-for-profit national association that works to market fashion designers nationally and globally. The FDCC has built World MasterCard Fashion Week – an international event that has become the calling card for designers, media, sponsors, and industry to gather collectively within the international fashion calendar to attend the season’s collections.