Sharing Stories of Making Community Places, Youth Initiatives & Leadership: DM2020 x RXYM

Research project Design ManifesT.O. 2020 (DM2020) teams up with Rexdale Youth Mentorship (RXYM) to share stories of placemaking, youth initiatives and leadership in the Queensplate community, North West Toronto. The series of events will include a joint survey about placemaking in neighbourhoods, an online youth forum in February, and a virtual artist talk and exploration of education pathways in art & design led by OCAD U students and recent grads. RXYM's stated mission is to "create safe spaces for racialized youth by providing them with tangible personal and professional tools to positively support their development into young adulthood.” See more at

DM2020 is a two-year narrative inquiry project compiling stories of grassroots placemaking through creative practices as a way to support and learn from community actions. As a follow up to the project’s ‘Creative Practice as Protest’ (CPP) workshop under a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant that was held last year, Associate Professor Cheryl Giraudy, Assistant Professor, Saskia van Kampen, and Urban Planner, Lena Phillips will engage with RXYM to co-design a report of findings and recommendations aimed to benefit the community and research. RXYM identified the need for youth to flourish, not only through recreational programming, but through programs that build professional skills and social awareness. These goals are aligned with DM2020’s aim to foster youth and other community participation in research that explores inclusive creative practices for equitable city making. 

If you live in the Rexdale / Queens Plate neighbourhood, you are invited to take part in the following survey:


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Friday, January 29, 2021 - 11:00am


“It was nice to see everyone coming together to solve problems that not many people take time to figure out. I think that workshops like these enable us and make us feel that our voice does matter” - T. Alexander, photographer and artist, Toronto.

Associate Professor Cheryl Giraudy, Faculty of Design and Assistant Professor Saskia van Kampen, School of Design (San Francisco State University) hosted the workshop ‘Creative Practice as Protest’ (CPP) with SSHRC grant partner Colloqate Design, an award-winning platform for racial, social, and cultural equity of public spaces and places. Co-founder Bryan C. Lee Jr. architect and activist joined the research team including Lead Research Assistant Lena Phillips (Urban Development Planner), assistants Nicholas Sagar (Photography) and Jun Li (Digital Futures) to welcome youth ages18–25 from across Toronto to share collective aspirations for a more equitable Toronto.

CPP is one of several events aligned with the research project Design Wo/ManifesT.O. (DM2020) launched at DesignTO in 2019. The project is a two-year effort to learn about grassroots initiatives fostering respectful design for placemaking, and place-keeping, and has engaged over 100 participants to date, including community youth leaders attending the workshop. Lena Philips brought her extensive experience in engagement of diverse young stakeholders to the effort, helping to shift focus from a student ‘ideas competition‘ to an ‘Youth ideas forum’ where next generation of creative practitioners and activists could network, create new alliances and develop solutions for the myriad of challenges and opportunities they perceive Toronto holds. Partnership with Colloqate offered a new framing for the forum and dovetailed with the non-profit’s current design justice work with Black Lives Matter Toronto. During the morning session, Colloqate inspired the audience with several themes including: making co-design for social justice a reality; how next gen become creative practitioners for action; who holds power in planning for communities, and how to access power effectively for justice in placemaking. The session unpacked equity, identity, and liberation in social structures in order to achieve/reclaim these states going forward. The afternoon session focused on re-imagination of Toronto for greater representation and inclusion, particularly for communities where voices of lived realities in decision-making are suppressed. 

Creative mentors joined CPP including: Jay Wall, Founder, Rally Rally design studio for social change; Jaicyea Smith MDes (Inclusive Design) Founder, Toronto Skate Stop and Her Buddah Belly; Sean Lee, Artistic Director-Tangled Art + Disability; Melanie Printup-Hope, Associate Dean, Faculty of Design Educator, Indigenous visual culture, graphic designer; Marcela Cordero, MDes (Interdisciplinary Design Strategy, George Brown) and Adwua Afful, Black Futures Now and Mapping Black Futures Project.

Many community leaders from a diverse range of organizations were invited to participate including Benjamin Bongolan, Coordinator, Newcomer Family Settlement Services at The 519, LGBTQ community hub; Abba Wie-Addo, Sr. Progam Leader, Rexdale Youth Mentorship Program, and Cheryll Case, Founder, Principal Urban Planner of CP Planning and Urban Design Coordinator, City of Brampton. Over the lunch break, artist Randell Adjei Founder, Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E Edutainment) used the art of spoken word to not only inspire the participants, but demonstrate how a powerful tool such as creative practice can share lived experiences, and foster respect for community and identity. R.I.S.E Edutainment is one of Toronto’s largest and longest running youth-led initiatives.

Mentors and community leaders were key to supporting participation, fostering responses for creative planning exercises and supporting participants in confirming themselves as change-makers. The engagement across disciplines, community groups, and individuals was intense and lead to the development of bold ideas, and practical solutions to issues of exclusion and lack of empowerment in city planning and design processes. Outcomes of the workshop are from the pre-Covid-19 timeframe, and pre-global discussion on systemic racism and need for systemic and significant change across socio-economic, cultural, health, and justice platforms. As the research extends into a new era, new shared lived experiences will be added to the growing database of emerging strategies and tools for both addressing community need in building a more inclusive city, and in designing the spaces and places that define it.

30 youth participants registered for the event and a further 42 on a waiting list. The response indicates the need for more opportunities for youth to come together to vision a future based on real world experience and imagination of what can be. Listening to the deep and heartfelt stories of trying to keep and make spaces/places in the city reflect and respect the communities they serve via the open forums and workshops is yielding both expected and unexpected outcomes. DM2020 continues to gather the creative endeavours with the aim of co-designing community-based, socially-driven design tools for greater inclusive placemaking across Toronto and elsewhere.

Additional Notes:

CPP was published in Toronto’s Caribbean Newspaper, February 2020. Reporter and youth participant Selina Macallum interviewed research partner Bryan Lee Jr. about Colloqate’s work in supporting, engaging, black and other racialized communities and in fostering designers and architects in the US and Canada for greater equity in designing the public realm.

DM2020 is planning its next community-based forum (online) aiming to engage youth activists specifically from west Toronto in discussions for both evolving the online public square and planning of physical spaces with social justice and social distancing principles in a Covid-19 era.

Saskia gave an online presentation at the10th Annual International Conference on Urban Studies & Planning hosted by the Athens Institute for Education and Research. The paper titled: Building “Working with, not for” into Design Studio Curriculum explores the outcomes of the CPP, reaffirming ‘ethics’ based on human-centred and participatory approaches as intrinsic to the discipline and pedagogy of design. The full paper will be published in the Athens Journal of Architecture in Fall 2020.

Cheryl Giraudy, B.Arch. MSc. OAA MRAIC has 30 years as a practicing architect and 20 years teaching at OCAD U, and supporting and leading research for the built environment with course-based projects, external partnerships, and academic granted work. She has held posts of Associate Dean in the Faculty of Design, and interim Graduate Program Director, Inclusive Design, an emerging discipline in which she holds an MSc. in design from the University of Salford, UK. She teaches in the Environmental Design program in third and fourth year, and undertakes participatory research focused on diverse communities across Toronto that have been underrepresented in decision-making for the design of the public realm. She fosters co-design strategies for equitable placemaking along with the accessible navigation of them. Projects include work with Toronto Community Housing, Bayview Hospital, and other Toronto community engagements through DM2020 research. Cheryl contributed to the provincial association of architects as Chair of the OAA Honours and Awards program for many years bringing about new award categories including Best Emerging Practice, and was a long-time consultant for an international organization employing ‘whole building’ standards, and human-centred approaches to programming and planning large complexes such as government offices, embassies, and more.

Saskia van Kampen (MDes, RGD, AIGA) has taught graphic Design at OCAD University as an Assistant Professor since 2014 and is now Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at San Francisco State University. She is focused on developing research projects that involve students, believing that by doing so she is supporting the next generation of designers to be socially driven in terms of accessible and inclusive design outcomes. Her research includes critical pedagogy in studio design courses, writing in the disciplines, and codesign practices. Before moving to the States, she was the Vice President of Education and board member of RGD (Registered Graphic Designers). Her role in RGD was to create programs that support both students and academic professionals in design. As such she created a Canada-wide Designathon, set up yearly academic awards of excellence and began an academic peer-reviewed journal. Professor van Kampen is also a contemporary feminist artist, using traditional creative practices such as needlework to deconstruct contemporary design methods and messages. 

Lena Phillips (she/her), based in Tkaronto (Toronto, Canada), currently works at the intersection of philanthropy and equity, supporting grassroots and systems change work being led by and for Indigenous and Black communities. She has been the lead assistant for the DM2020 research project and instrumental in developing the Creative Practice as Protest workshop held at OCAD U. She brings a focus on exploring creative practice, placemaking and design justice for the project. Lena is also a researcher with Virtual Grounds (a project of Digital Justice Lab and Trinity Square video) where she is exploring digital justice and urban futures. She previously worked in the non-profit and international development sectors focusing on food security, arts and culture, and community development. Past projects include: youth-led, grassroots organizing for climate justice; facilitating new programs and partnerships as an Aga Khan Foundation Fellow in Uganda; and engaging as a participatory action researcher focused on housing/displacement in London post-2012 Olympics and on antieviction work in slums/informal settlements in sub-Saharan African cities. Her interests lie in applying African/Afro-centric, Southern and Indigenous epistemologies and urbanisms as a means to critically interrogate dominate Northern/Western theories of (urban) space. She has a BA from the University of Toronto and an MSc Urban Development Planning from The Bartlett, University College London.

To learn more about this research, please visit:

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 10:15am
Lab Member: 
Cheryl Giraudy

Register now for DEEP 2019 (Designing Enabling Economies and Policies), Oct. 18th

DEEP 2019, Designing Enabling Economies and Policies
Friday, September 20, 2019 - 9:00am to Friday, October 18, 2019 - 6:00pm

This year the one-day DEEP event will be the beginning of a series of challenge workshops that extend throughout the year. These workshops will address challenges that are important to all of us, but that don’t receive enough attention or investment because they are too complex or because the people that are most affected don’t have enough influence or power.

We also hope you will get involved in many new and ongoing inclusive design projects. Our new projects are Code Learn Create and Project We Count. Code Learn Create is building inclusive educational coding tools, so that everyone can participate in this “new literacy”. We Count makes sure that people are not excluded from the data economy, and that data-based decisions are not biased against minorities, diversity and complexity. 


We are gathering our international partners to help us plan the next iteration of our Social Justice Repair KitFLOE and Platform Co-op Development Kit projects. 


The topics we will tackle are tough, but also personally relevant to everyone attending. Among the themes running through our discussions will be: 

  • ownership and agency in a data-driven world, 
  • how truth and value are determined, 
  • reversing rising financial disparity and political polarization, and 
  • the relationship between inclusion and sustainability.

We also intend to have fun and celebrate the opportunity to connect with old and new friends.


Venue & Address: 
Location: Cooper Koo YMCA 461 Cherry Street Toronto, ON M5A 0H7
416-977-6000 x3967
Free to register but please tell us if your plans change.

"title:______________" (to be defined by you)

Friday, June 21, 2019 - 5:00pm


Venue & Address: 
OCAD U Graduate Gallery 205 Richmond St. W.

Peter Coppin

Dr. Peter Coppin is an Associate Professor of Design at OCAD University. He is a core Program Faculty member in the Master of Design (MDes) in Inclusive Design program where he runs the first and second-year Inclusive Design Laboratory courses and serves as Principal Advisor for a number of graduate student Major Research Projects (these are the culminating focus of the program's final year).

Design ManifesT.O 2020

Recipients of 2018 OCAD University Research Seed Grant, Associate Professor Cheryl Giraudy and Assistant Professor Saskia van Kampen, Faculty of Design have just launched a two­-year research effort with the working title Design ManifesT.O 2020: creating new ideas for Toronto. The project has begun with an audit of past and ongoing proposals, movements, policies, and calls to action that evolve art, design and creative endeavours of place­making as part of transforming the city, including aspirations for greater equity, democratic reform, infrastructure, transit, amalgamation, and neighbourhood redevelopment.

The project launched with a public panel discussion as part of the 2019 DesignTO Festival at the Open Gallery, 49 McCaul. The panel of community­-based activists, writers, critics, and makers, moderated by Councillor Kristyn Wong­Tam, Toronto Centre Ward 13, shared their stories for grassroot endeavours and disruptive strategies for place­making and included Author Dave Meslin, Community organizer Sabina Ali, Manager, Community + Policy Connections Ajeev Bhatia, and Public Art Critic Sarah Ratzlaff. Research Assistants Christine Xia and Samantha Matters contributed significantly to efforts of planning, and research collection. The research team has begun planning the second forum in collaboration with potential sponsors, and aimed for Scarborough neighbourhoods, to gather/listen to citizen efforts for community-based creative placemaking.

In conjunction with faculty partners, early plans for a ‘Creative Practice as Protest Workshop’ with Colloqate.Org, an award winning community platform for racial, social, and cultural equity in city­making, are being discussed, potentially aligned with a student competition for new ideas for Toronto. Stories and information collected from all events, forums, workshops, as well as interviews, will form a rich database to explore and ideally manifest a creative artefact, be it video, book or toolkit for planning Toronto 2020 and beyond.


Photograph of Borough Posters installed in the windows of 49 McCaul.
Guest Panelists Dave Meslin, Ajeev Bhatia in discussion prior to event in front of Borough Posters
Photo of Project Launch with Panel Discussion and Open Mic at Open Gallery 49 McCaul St
Photo of Research Collaborators Saskia Van Kampen, Cheryl Giraudy and Bryan Lee Jr., co-founder of Colloqate.Org meeting
Monday, February 4, 2019 - 10:30am
Lab Member: 
Cheryl Giraudy
Saskia van Kampen

OCAD U brings multisensory project to the AGO

Friday, January 4, 2019

Gallery visitors with vision loss have a new way to enjoy some iconic paintings at the AGO: using multisensory aids that allow them to “feel” the works on the wall.

The AGO already has multisensory tours that allow people with low vision to touch certain sculptures and listen to audio descriptions. Now, OCAD U students have designed 3-D replicas, or “translations,” of paintings to give visitors a sense of the mood and shapes in the images through touch.

Students in OCAD U’s Multisensory course chose four paintings for the project: Tom Thomson’s The West Wind, Otto Dix’s Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann, La demoiselle de magasin by James Tissot and Jar of Apricots by Jean-Siméon Chardin. An electric fan, fruit and cold “slime” also help convey the experience of the paintings.  

The Multisensory course is offered to senior students (undergraduate or graduate), and is a partnership between the AGO and OCAD University. Lectures by various academic and museum experts, including Professors Peter Coppin and Beverly Dywan and the AGO’s Melissa Smith, teach students theories of sound and other senses for their translations.

“The translations are very effective for people with vision and other sensory impairments, but also helpful for others to find greater depth in their understanding of the chosen artworks. These provide better engagement from the visitors, which is a desirable quality for visitor experience at museums,” says Dywan.

You an read the Toronto Star's coverage of the project online. 





Documentation of audience at conference
Thursday, November 1, 2018

The IACS conference series gathers together scholars and scientists in semiotics, cognitive science, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and related fields, who wish to share their research on meaning and contribute to the interdisciplinary dialogue.

From July 13th to 15th, 2018 OCAD University and Ryerson University (in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario) co-hosted the Third Conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics, co-organized by Dr. Peter Coppin (Graduate Program Director, Inclusive Design). 

Presentations by Inclusive Design students and faculty were featured in the conference including:

Veronica Geraldo (with Jordan Zlatev)
Referential iconicity in music and speech within and across sensory modalities

Brandon Biggs, Lena Yusim, and Peter Coppin
The Audio Game Laboratory

Peter Coppin (with Richard C. Windeyer) 
Sonifying Napoleon's March: A cognitive semiotics approach to translating infographic maps into cross-modal information displays

Annie Levy and Peter Coppin
A Participatory Approach to Cross-Modal Translations/Interpretation of Visual Artworks

The conference also included a tour of an exhibition titled "Multi-Sensory Expo" that featured projects by INCD students at OCAD U's Ada Slaight Student Gallery, as well as a poster presentation by INCD student Felipe Sarmiento (with Peter Coppin) investigating an evolving multimodal sign system for the non-visual and non-aural soccer spectator.

The International Association for Cognitive Semiotics (IACS, founded 2013) aims at establishing cognitive semiotics as a trans-disciplinary study of meaning. More information on the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics can be found at

The full program from the conference can be found here

Cognitive Semiotics investigates the nature of meaning, the role of consciousness, the unique cognitive features of human beings, the interaction of nature and nurture in development, and the interplay of biological and cultural evolution in phylogeny. To better answer such questions, cognitive semiotics integrates methods and theories developed in the human, social, and cognitive sciences.


Local Organizing Committee

Core Committee Members
Jamin Pelkey, Ryerson Chair: Associate Professor, Ryerson University
Peter Coppin, OCAD Chair: Associate Professor, OCAD University
Stéphanie Walsh Matthews, Coordinator: Associate Professor, Ryerson University 
Dana Osborne, Coordinator: Assistant Professor, Ryerson University

Conference Liasons 
Dave Kemp, IMA Liason: Assistant Professor, Ryerson University School of Image Arts
Melissa Smith, AGO Liason: Coordinator, Art Gallery of Ontario
David Lidov, General Advisor: Professor Emeritus, York University 

Conference Assistants
Ali Aird, Volunteer Coordinator, Ryerson University, Masters Student
Gabriele Aroni, Volunteer, Ryerson University, PhD Student
Calla Evans, Photographer, Ryerson University, Masters Student
Talia Eylon, Media Support, Ryerson University, Masters Student
Annie Levy, Volunteer, OCAD University, Masters Student
Ambrose Li, Web Designer, OCAD University, Masters Graduate
George Martin, Volunteer, York University, PhD Student
Sophia Melanson, Volunteer, York University, PhD Student
Paul Messina, Volunteer, Ryerson University, BSc Student
Natasha Naveau, Media Support, Ryerson University, Masters Student
Sari Park, Volunteer Coordinator, Ryerson University, BA Student
Sahar Raza, Volunteer, Ryerson University, Masters Student
Richard Rosenbaum, Volunteer, York University, PhD Student
Jana Vigor, Volunteer Coordinator, Ryerson University, Masters Student


Innovative Designs for Accessibility Competition | Opens November 1st!

Image of hand and light bulb
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Innovative Designs for Accessibility Competition launches November 1st and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students!
For more information about the competition click here

About the competition
The Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition aims to inspire  students to use their creativity to develop innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions to accessibility-related issues resulting in communities that are more accessible for persons with disabilities.

The objectives of the program are:

  • to contribute to the creation of a culture of accessibility in Canada
  • to motivate students to think about accessibility issues and to include accessibility in their creation of social and technological innovations now and in the future
  • to develop cost-effective, practical and innovative concepts, programs, initiatives or designs that address everyday accessibility issues

Who is eligible?
Eligible applicants must be:

  • Currently enrolled in any postsecondary program at a university which has recognized provincial degree-granting power, or their affiliates
  • Students in all programs including architecture, arts, business, computer science, early childhood education, engineering, industrial design, medicine, nursing, political science, psychology, sociology, social work, etc. are welcome to apply

First place: Three prizes of $5,000 (Students who finish in first place will receive $5,000 and all expenses paid trip to showcase their project at a national conference.)
Second place: Three prizes of $1,500
Third place: Three prizes of $1,000

Brian Carriere
Program Officer
Universities Canada
Tel.: (613) 563-1236, ext. 279