Belgrade 1 Toronto 0

Canada can usually claim wins in ice hockey but when it comes to design most countries put us to shame. Okay let me clarify this. Yes we have talented designers and do have a “few” decent companies producing quality products but once again a country has come out of the blue and beaten us to the punch. And the punch here is a biggie, DesignWeek in Milan.

For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it a weeklong lovefest of design that completely envelopes the Northern Italian city. For this year’s edition, Belgrade has sent a delegation of young Serbian designers to promote their talents during the year’s greatest design show. I am happy for them as I am for any city or country that invests and promotes their creative individuals. However, I am deeply saddened that our country and our city never show up to these events in a meaningful way. Yes, there have been token events and the odd lecture. I had the pleasure of giving one at the Triennale museum in 2004. But for the most part it is other cities that send their hopefuls forward.

Why is this important? Well, for starters the Italian furniture sector is the largest industry that invests in innovative and new furniture pieces. If you’re going to promote your radical new idea, this is the place. Also, exporting design talent to Italy will do wonders for a design career and bring prosperity to our city.

It never ceases to baffle me that for all this talk about Toronto as a design centre with more designers per capita than any other North American city, we never promote our talent. Ironically, Toronto and Milano are twin cities. Why? There couldn’t be a more mis-matched marriage outside of Hollywood’s celeb debacles. Toronto is completely off the world’s it-city radar when it comes to design.

Governments at all levels must do more to promote our designers at world events and give Toronto’s talented designers the recognition they deserve.


Start It Up

Maybe Mick Jagger and the boys had it right in the 80s when they asked us to “Start Me Up”. As economies around the world search for the booster cables to electrify an upswing in job creation, they might well take these lyrics to heart.

Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent editorial in last weekend’s New York Times. In it, he discusses how the powers at be might have been wiser to shed monies to startups rather than trying to bail out the ailing dinosaurs of the old economy. Mr. Friedman claims that the quality jobs of the future will come from the new, bolder, more innovative and creative companies that are being wrought at this very instant.

While Canada has wheathered the recession well in comparison to its counterparts, we cannot rest on these laurels but must continue to find and support the new enterprises that will take us into the 21st century and create the jobs that will sustain our economy. It is quite disturbing that Dalton McQuinty allowed Samsung to be our wind turbine provider instead of looking to build a new Made in Canada solution.

Also, where are the Canadian companies in the new transportation economy? Everywhere in the world new and smaller companies are proposing zero-emission solutions to automobiles. Croatia recently showed a prototype for a new electric car called the Dok-Ing XD. Canada is quite a large country with an industrial base and yet we have not shown any even remotely encouraging prototypes in this new market sector.

There has always been a lack of visionary, risk-taking entrepreneurship in Canada and as a result the manufacturing sector has year by year shrunk, shedding an ever growing number of jobs. In its wake we are left with volumes of manufacturing capacity. Perhaps what is needed is a new breed of manager, leaders who see that by using innovation, creativity and design we can harness these old manufacturing facilities and start churning out the products of the future.

Canada needs to start some startups lest we end up finishing last at the finish line, if we even get there.