DesignThinkers Toronto celebrates 20th year with all-star speaker line-up and over 2,000 attendees

Photography by Connie Tsang

On October 24 and 25, over 2,000 creatives filled Meridian Hall to attend the 20th annual DesignThinkers Conference in Toronto. This year's theme from Concrete paid tribute to examples of Canadian design with unintended cultural impact, inviting speakers and delegates to consider how the designs we create can go on to influence the world in unexpected ways.

Day 1 of the Conference kicked off with a keynote presentation from Founder  and CEO of CreativeMornings, Tina Roth Eisenberg on 'The Unexpected Power of Side Projects', followed by break-out presentations from speakers including Adam J. Kurtz ('Life Advice for Creatives'), Maria Giudice ('The Life of a Changemaker'), Nick DenBoer ('The Media is the Medium'), Ti Chang ('Designing Social Change') and many more. The day closed with a dynamic exploration of 'Identity Design: An intimate relationship between client and designer' from Partner at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, Sagi Haviv.     



The lineup for Day 2 continued the conversations on topics such as design leadership, new technologies, building creative careers, design education and the future of the industry with talks from speakers including Jenna Niven & David DeCheser (R/GA), Liza Enebeis & Merijn van Velsen (Studio Dumbar), Cey Adams, Natasha Jen, and an inspiring closing keynote from legendary designer Brian Collins



Workshops, roundtable discussions, panels and networking sessions provided additional opportunities for attendees to connect with fellow creatives and tailor their DesignThinkers experience to their specific areas of interest.



In celebration of the 20th year of DesignThinkers, the 2019 Toronto event also included a few surprises, such as a photo booth with 'Throwback DT' props and special birthday messages from past DT speakers Aaron Draplin, James Victore, Chris Do, Steve Edge, and more. 



The official charity for this year's DesignThinkers Conference was Special Olympics Canada. Together, delegates raised approximately $1200 to go towards local programming in Special Olympics Canada's various chapters across the country. Thank you to the delegates who donated to this fantastic organization!


This year, RGD was excited to present Eastern Canada's DesignThinker of the Year Awards to two Canadian business leaders who exemplify what it means to use design to enhance business objectives. Award winners Noura Sakkajh, CEO & Co-Founder of Mejuri, and Anthony Green, Emma Knight and Hana James, Co-Founders of Greenhouse accepted their awards, and Noura and Anthony participated in an on-stage conversation about design's impact on their businesses.



As always, the Designer Marketplace was filled with a variety of companies offering products, services and experiences for creative professionals. For the second year, Frontier's Live Magazine was among these companies, offering delegates opportunities to help capture the stories, ideas and energy of the conference, which will help produce a beautiful print magazine.



To end off the Conference, we hosted a ceremony to recognize the winners of RGD's 3rd annual In-House Design Awards, complete with an exhibit of the winning work and an opportunity to network with in-house creatives from across Canada.


Delegates and speakers were also invited to share about the Conference using the hashtag #rgdDT...

@contextcreativeShoutout to @RGD for a super inspiring conference...can't wait to implement all the new insights we gained! #rgdDT
@mrcpprWoke up this morning with a renewed creative outlook on things. Can't wait to get to work. #rgddt
@michellehopgoodThank you @RGD!! You really outdid yourself this year! DesignThinkers gets better every year! I’m honoured to have been a part of this year’s lineup. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back! #rgdDT
@Jenna_hooper: Was lucky enough to be sent to attend DesignThinkers Toronto 2019. Saw so many inspirational and amazing designers speak. Thanks @RGD for hosting an awesome conference. #rgdDT
@lenore_ramirezAt my first #rgdDT conference, and it's so, so refreshing to hear people SPEAK MY LANGUAGE, GOD.
@jpamental: “Any future worth raising in the future should sound a little ridiculous in the present” @briancollins1 @wearecollins #rgddt
@craibdesign: “Good design is good business. Beyond the bottomline, it provides intangible cultural value for a company.” - Natasha Jen preaching to the choir @RGD #rgdDT
@rplantt: Try HARDER! @studiodumbar share that getting to the final solution is a journey! Don’t give up! Iteration and experimentation can lead to wonderful results! #rgdDT
@LesleyRHudson: “I believe that design thinking has made us a more homogenous industry,” Matt Luckhurst on the drive to start The New Company #rgdDT
@Spuning: "Diversity is a reality. Inclusion is a choice." - Michael and Kaila Jaques. Well said! #rgdDT
@talithaena: “The logo is not the sentence. It’s the period at the end of a sentence.” – Sagi Haviv at @cghnyc. Delicious first day at #rgdDT. So much to chew on. #design #identity
@vcuartasdesign: LOVED the Lightning talk Leading a Creative Career with Confidence: 3 steps from Alana Ruoso 1. Decide now: Change mindset 2. Get Uncomfortable: Be Ok with feeling Uncomfortable 3. Say More: Less Thinking more Speaking #rgdDT @RGD
@designbynuff: “The more free we feel the easier it is to make decisions that allow us to change, evolve or better our lives and the lives of those around us.” @Heystudio #rgdDT
@ToughMilk_Li: @swissmiss how to combat your feelings of impostor syndrome: it’s not impostor syndrome, you’re just pushing yourself and your abilities to new territories. Embrace it.
@lauweatherston5 #designactivism principles w/@DesignerTi
1• purpose: how will humanity benefit?
2• beauty: can aesthetics enhance user experience?
3• user-centricity: does the product serve the user?
4• scale: is it accessible to people?
5• engage: how can we start conversations?
@OmniWorxIncTO: Interesting facts from @jaysonoertel of Adobe. People decide whether or not to continue viewing social media content such as videos within 3 seconds of seeing it. #rgddt  
@wendymill“Failure is just research unless you never try again.” Adam J. Kurtz #rgdDT
@lauralux: “The best way to complain is to make things,” @swissmiss references James Murphy at #rgdDT.


We'd also like to thank our Conference Partners: Adobe, Category 5, Concrete, Creative Niche, Flash Reproductions, Porter, Stocksy, Veritiv and Z by HP


Thank you to our photographer Connie Tsang Photography for capturing DesignThinkers in photographs - check out more great photos from the event here


RGD members will have access to recordings of all of the talks in the Members Only section - videos will be available in the coming weeks.