Canadian Design Schools

Hi Everyone,

I’m a 22 yr old from Vancouver, BC determined to go back to school for Industrial Design. I’ve been working at a plastics manufacturing company as a sales and design consultant for roughly two years and I feel stagnant in what I’m doing, so I’ve decided to go back to school for a career path I’ve grown a strong interest in.

The only local industrial design school in Vancouver is Emily Carr and the other schools I have in mind are Carleton and OCAD. I’ve tried contacting people at the school but I don’t think I will get the most honest opinion from them, so I’m hoping to get it from this discussion board.

Does anyone know the strengths of each of these schools? I want to know some specifics:

  • how strong the school’s reputation is in the design industry?
  • how connected they are with local and international industry? (ie. what are my chances of getting a great career opportunities?)
  • their international exchange program
  • I heard that Emily Carr has a strong Furniture design program but I want to have the flexibility to choose concentrations in say…the medical product design, interactive design, packaging…etc…does anyone know how developed these concentrations are of these schools
  • How are the staff, students and learning environment.

-Any other schools you can recommend? Cost is an issue because schools in the states are too much for me; I’d be surviving off student loans and some savings.

Those are just some things that come to mind. Please feel free to add anything that might help me decide. Because I’ve decided to do this so late, I’m planning to goto a local college to take courses to transfer directly into second year.

Please let me know what you guys think! I look forward to hearing your opinions. Thanks!

Ben :wink:

I’m in the same boat as you…

Not to sure about Emily Carr, as I’m a Toronto resident, but in my own quest to find the right school, I’ve heard from numerous sources* that:

Carleton is highly respected, and a very “career” oriented program, with good facilities and people who take teaching seriously.

OCAD is heavy on the design aspect, has some very polarized (though mostly good) opinions on the ID program, but tends to suffer from the usual anti-OCAD sentiment that teachers are flaky and it’s facilities are falling apart.

Don’t neglect HUMBER however, it apparently has a great program (I’ve looked into it and it’s my #2 after OCAD) , and, if you’re coming from BC, the fact that it’s in the northern wastelands of Toronto shouldn’t be a big issue. It’s really, really far from downtown. :wink:

Humber, from what I’ve heard, has great hands-on work and teachers who work in the industry. In fact the current head of UMBRA is a humber grad, so if your focus is plastics than there you go :slight_smile:

  • the opinions expressed here are all based on hearsay and rabble. :wink:

i’d suggest to try searching the forums as this has been covered previously.

here’s one thread:


Thanks for the link rkuchinsky, but I’ve already read that one. It was informative but I didn’t much about Emily Carr.

The easier route for me is to try for the EC program but I just need to know how they compare with the others. I need the RIGHT school for me too.

To me it seems like Carleton is way more established than the rest but I really want to get a feel for Emily Carr. If Emily Carr has a pretty much the same program as Carleton or OCAD, I would be more inclined to save the money and stay home.

If EC is a flaky program, I really wouldn’t want to invest 4 years and $25,000 there.

I cant speak from direct experience, but from what i’ve heard the EC program is a lot more arts based, and not as well established/regarded for ID. Of course you’d do better to get some comments from someone who knows the program directly.

If you are based in vancouver, why not go over and have a look yourself and talk to some of the students? this would be the ideal way to get more info i’d think…

also of course depends if you want to move away from home or not, which can be another deciding factor.


I’m from Toronto and when I was thinking about studying product here (which I decided against) these are the big themes that came up for each school:
Carleton - engineering based
OCAD - conceptual work
Humber - learning CAD and other software

EC I had a really hard time getting a read on from over here.

I know that’s pretty simplistic, but I didn’t actually go to any of those schools, it came through a design career expo where I talked to faculty and a few alumni.

Hey there! I see rchuchinsky beat me to it in posting my own board topic. It’s good to see others in a similar situation as I was in very recently. I finally decided on Carleton after much deliberation. Mind you, I was really aiming at OCAD because I had just dropped out of an engineering program at UofT that I was very dissatisfied in, and wanted to stay in the city. They also offered me the choice of going directly into 2nd year while I’d have to start over again at Carleton.

I ended up choosing Carleton because it seems to have a well-deserved reputation for preparing a strong base for its graduates. I figured if this was something I was truly dedicated to, I would choose the best school even if it tacked on an extra year for me. From what I remember hearing on the boards, OCAD and EC are pretty similar since they are both art schools and naturally focus (or have no other choice) on more conceptual-based design. On reason why I chose Carleton, was because it is a fully-fledged university so I would be able to take courses outside the ID stream. Another choice that seems popular here is Humber. From what I’ve read they seem very professional about what they do.

The school you go to does not matter, what you do there and the fact that you graduated is what is important.

However, I do understand everybody, including myself, has this anxiety over choosing the right school. Over the years I’ve interviewed and hired stars and duds from well reputed and lesser known schools.

Overall, all Canadian design schools are fine; in its short history, 10, 12 years?, Emilly Carr and BCIT have done an amazing job. In general I believe Humber College has the best balance of curriculum to get graduates jobs now, and their placement rate proves this.

Personally I think you would be foolish to move from Vancouver and Emily Carr College, unless such a move is also for other personal or lifestyle reasons.