Prototype Exhibition
‘Purpose & Play’

Going into its seventh year, ‘Purpose & Play’ is a new edition of the annual prototype exhibition organized by DesignTO in partnership with Umbra. A dozen new prototypes by Canadian designers are shown each year at the Umbra Store during the DesignTO Festival. ‘Purpose & Play’ invites any Canadian designer (living here or abroad) to submit to this open call for submissions.


The past year has been hard. The effects of the ongoing global pandemic have been felt in almost every aspect of life, with serious illness and loss of life threatening communities, social isolation and stress damaging mental health, and restrictions jeopardizing livelihoods.

Throughout this year, we have been asked to stay at home as much as possible. Many activities previously spread across different locations and environments — live, work, play, learn, socialize — are confined to one space. The monotony of lockdown is contributing to brain fog and boredom.

In a time when everything can feel the same, how can we inject colour and levity into our lives? Where can we find moments of joy and spontaneity? How can we experience our environments anew after so much time in confinement? In contrast to restrictions, essentials, and necessity, how can we carve out opportunities for frivolity and play?

Drawing upon these conditions, the exhibition invites designers to explore new designs for the coming year. How can we create a “new quality of life” through prototypes? Consider opportunities for joy, humour, play, multiple functions, adaptability, personalization, entertaining, and other ways domestic objects can be fun to use and fun to own. The exhibition invites designers to think about the whole environment that we live and work in, and welcomes creative responses to the theme.

There is no fee for this submission or for participating in the Prototype Exhibition. However, if selected, you will be responsible for arranging drop-off and pick-up of your prototype to the Umbra Store, 165 John Street, Toronto, at your own cost. Artist fees will be paid to designers selected for the exhibition.