Course Overview

“What I learned is something that can never be taught and only experienced through hands on fieldwork. I still cannot describe it but it has forever changed the way I look at the world and design. This opportunity allowed me break new barriers in the way I work as a designer and student and really understand people and to work within another society that is so vastly different from our western ideologies.” – Michael

Design Abroad is a three week long course running from May 12 – June 1, 2024  It is worth 1.0 credits (the equivalent of two 0.5 credit elective studio courses). This is a GDES course open to Faculty of Design, Faculty of Art, and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences students.

OCAD University offers students a unique experience not possible in a traditional classroom setting. Through this course, Design Abroad students have direct access to communities and individuals allowing them to fully engage in the participatory design process. The result is the development of projects that are rooted in an understanding of the local strengths and challenges and have the potential for lasting impact. Along the way, students gain friendships and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Course Requirements

Eligible students must be second year standing or higher. Students who meet these requirements must submit an application and be approved by the course instructor in order to enroll in the course.

Course Description

This course offers students a unique opportunity to work within a local community in an international setting to engage in solutions that can have a meaningful impact. This experience will allow students to gain an in-depth understanding of a local culture through exploration, observation, and other design tools. Working independently and in groups, students will interact with organizations and members of a community to identify challenges and possible solutions. Students will then integrate what they have
learned through this participatory design process to develop design solutions that are innovative, appropriate, and implementable.

“The participatory design process taught me much about design. At OCAD we are always asked to consider the end user within the process, this course actually allowed us to interact and understand the user in a very real way.”

– Kylie

Course Objectives

This course not only offers students the ability to gain international travel experience but also provides the opportunity to co-design with others from a different cultural context in order to create solutions that can have a lasting impact. Through a mix of structured interaction with the community as well as studio based work and critique, students from OCAD University’s various design disciplines learn how to develop design solutions that aim to improve the lives of their intended users.

Design Abroad challenges students to hone their ideation and prototyping skills but also asks them to engage in systems thinking, creation of new business models, analysis of historical and cultural contexts, as well as local and international policy in order to understand the ‘bigger picture’ and its impact on their designs. The goal is to help students grow as designers who are conscientious, resourceful, adaptable and innovative whether they are designing in Toronto or on the other side of the globe.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course students will have the knowledge and ability to:

1. Observe and Understand Culture
Observe and analyze the environment to make informed design decisions.

2. Experience the Participatory Design Process
Participate in the design process with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

3. Ideate and Prototype
Research, brainstorm, and work with a community – be willing to let go of ideas and continue the iteration process.

4. Evaluate and Implement
Make critical assessments of implementable concepts.

5. Document and Share
Compile and organize information for presentations to others.