OCAD students compete to “future cast” their world

From January 31 to February 6, 2006, the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) showcases its annual student design competition, an initiative to hone students’ strategic thinking and conceptual skills. Celebrating its 10th year, this year’s competition challenges OCAD students to imagine “What can OCAD be?”

In past years, students have been asked to come up with groundbreaking solutions to complex problems like homelessness, sustainability, disaster relief, or how to reclaim Toronto’s waterfront. But this year’s competition has taken a different twist by asking students to dream into the future of Canada’s largest university for art and design and to rethink their own world that of the student experience.

Coinciding with the competition, the OCAD community has recently embarked on a major strategic planning process. As a leader in teaching strategic thinking in the design process, the university strongly believes in he capacity of its students and so is tapping into the ideas of its own student body to envision its future.

“This year’s topic is a very exciting one for both the participants and the university. Inviting the learners in this institution to turn their creative minds to thinking about “What can OCAD be?” obviously engages the students at a very personal level, and provides the university with extremely valuable and, we hope, implementable solutions to enhancing learning at OCAD,” said Lenore Richards, Dean of the Faculty of Design. “We are an institution of creativity and innovation. What better opportunity is there than to use our resident innovators to positively impact their own environment?”

Students apply some of the best planning process models used in business today models like future casting which OCAD incorporates in its curriculum through courses like its ThinkTank series. Like ThinkTank, the design competition requires students to work together in multidisciplinary teams to employ research, collaboration and conceptual thinking skills to arrive at scenarios that address real world themes and issues.

“We are harvesting the creative capital of OCAD to discover positive and distinctive activities for the school to move and act upon. We place a high value on the students and their education and trust them to become a key element in the progressive march into the future,” said instructor Todd Falkowsky, competition organizer.

The competition’s topic was released to students on Thursday, January 26, and requires students to work in an intense time frame of only four days, with completed submissions that were due Monday, January 30. Results will be on exhibit in OCAD’s Great Hall starting January 31 until February 6, when the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony and celebration.

The grand prize is project implementation. OCAD intends to incorporate some of the best ideas resulting from the competition into its strategic plan, an initiative led by President Sara Diamond, which is currently seeking extensive community input.

“This competition topic will provide a significant opportunity for input from our students, and generate provocative and visionary ideas which will change our community as we consider future directions for OCAD,” said Richards.