Emily Carr vs. Carleton

I am Canadian and wanting to go to design school here. Can anybody tell me which school is the best. I’ve already read one post that said carleton was more engineering based. But was wondering if there are any other differences or if there are any better design schools in Canada. It seems like those are the ones I hear most about.


this site may be useful to you…I believe it lists all the schools in Canada which offer ID programs


good luck!

Thanks Switch!

You should really check out OCAD in toronto, the city is great and the school has really got their act together. They used to by arts based but now the program is top nothch with some of canada’s top designers as profs, and eventhough the website might not say their is co-op oppertunities.

good Luck

I’m guessing you meant “they used to be arts based”, what are they now? Is there a problem with a program being arts based opposed to something else? Would you say their the best program in Canada?

Thanks for the Response,


I’m a Canadian Industrial Designer currently working in the USA.

I’m originally from Vancouver. Back then, instead of going to the local ‘Art School’ I did some research and called some consultancies to find out what their hiring preferences were in terms of grads. I think 7/10 people said Carleton U. So then I packed all my bags and move out East. I knew about ECIAD, OCAD, Ryerson, UofCalgary, etc even before I left but decided Carleton was the best at that time. That was in the mid 90s.

I have friends from ECIAD, OCAD and Carleton and I notice that, although grads coming from any three of these schools have an equal representation in the workforce, I noticed that Carleton grads seem to know more about Engineering, Materials and Manufacturing. The other two schools have more emphasis on Fine Arts and Art Foundation. The first two years at Carleton students spend more time on calculus, physics, static engineering, and manufacturing whereas students from ECIAD/OCAD emphasize more on ‘foundation art’ courses such as life drawing, painting, scultpting, photogr. Correct me if i’m wrong. But nowadays, the field is a lot more levelled. I heard a lot of good things about ECIAD.

IMO, I think if you are artistically talented, and can’t afford to go to Art Center, you should consider Carleton. They focus more on manufacturing, materials, marketing, and user-centrics and dont’ put too much effort on aesthetics/artistic side of things. Thats up to you and what you learn from others. Thats why you should go into that school w/ a foundation of art or at least have top notch sketching, rendering and basic aesthetic skills. They assume you have that going in.

Currently I’m sort of the ‘gatekeeper’ for my company. All resumes/portfolios go through me. The first thing I look at is their sketching ability, then work experience, then what school they’re from.

Good Luck w/ your search.

Wow, that’s the opposite of what I’ve heard. According to people I know who are in that area and have been affiliated with the local programs, OCAD is an undisciplined mess with lazy students.

In any case, you should visit all the schools you’re considering to get a first-hand look, without relying too much on what you hear here.

Like I said before the best thing to do is to call some employers in Canada and find out where they hire most of their new grads from. Try these…

Gad Shannan, Karo, DesignWorkshop, Kerr, DesignStudio, etc

I say carleton…not only because I went there and have had no problems finding work, but if you attended the “rocket” show in toronto last year (that had the grad projects from all 3 ontario programs) the level of Carleton’s work spoke for itself.

Carleton projects were just more “real” and picked up over 2/3 of the awards. Ideas vs Solutions

I then went to the ECIAD grad show and was quite dissapointed. Carleton just enforces many more of the “real world” fundamentals and won’t let you get away with certain things. Some may find it constraining (such as karim Rashid did) but if you are already talented in form and colour and understand proper “3D” fundamentals then carleton might be a better fit. Just make sure your able to handle calculus. A few very talented designers at Carleton have been unable to get through that and had to go elsewhere.

Unless you are extremely talented I believe that going to a program where they teach parametric modelling (proe, sw) is key - and Carleton does that very well.

check the website, the awards were almost evenly distributed and an ocad project won the overall award.

I think it depends on what you want to do. OCAD if you want to focus on aesthetics, Carleton if you want to focus on mechanics.

There’s talented people at each school.

They all have profs that would not make it in the businessworld.

Many can’t sketch or do 3D.

Carleton I would say you learn the most from the sessional lecturers not the actual full professors. Many of the full professors have very little experience in industry.

If you asked to see what many of the profs can do. Well you would be in for a big shock. The sessionals can run rings around them.

This applies to pretty well all the Canadian ID schools and many US schools. Think about it. You have a prof with 2 years of industry experience before getting a teaching position.

That makes them a junior entry level designer. How much are they going to know about tooling, costing, budgets, schedules, marketing, liability, UL, enviromental testing, urethane casting, surfacing, IGES, IGES repair, data clouds, alias/rhino to pro/e translations, human factors, mold flow, ejector pins, material costs, dfma?

That’s a lot to put on someone who is essentially a junior when it comes to these things.

The key is to look for a school that has many teachers who practice and the teaching is a secondary gig for them. Look for teachers that have 10-20 years of industry and they teach a few courses on the side in addition to their full time gig.

Humber, Concordia and University of Montreal at Quebec may be underated.

Gad Shannan, Karo, DesignWorkshop, Kerr, DesignStudio, etc

2 are better than average B
1 is average C
2 you want to escape from F

Not a great average.

This is so true…
Ask a school what percentage of their teachers work in industry and what firms do they work at. There is nothing worse than being taught by someone whose last relevant work was made in the 80’s

Sadly, this is often the case as classes are taught by professional academics rather than professional designers.

The good schools will have a balance of both

Each of the Canadian schools go through phases when they are:
Hot or Not.

Key is recognize when a Canadian school has the opportunity to be HOT and sometimes this is due to key personnel and how they deal with the existing structure and develop fresh projects.

Right now there is POTENTIAL due to key personnel at Humber and ECIAD.
It may take them 2-5 years though to create change or perhaps give up.

This happened at CCAC in SF. It had potential and imploded. I believe most employers look for the glimmer of potential and have to invest 2 years in a new designer to the point where they do consistently high standard work.

It’s better to be 100% good rather than 50% great and 50% pathetic. As a business you can’t afford to miss half the time because it will sink and go under and everyone loses.

Typically there are 3 talented ones who will do well at any school. They shine anywhere and with the right school they are brilliant diamonds.

Another strategy would be to do 2 years and if you have language skills transfer to Spain, Germany, France or Italy. You obtain European training and it only cost you two years of tuition. Forget England, except for Graduate school.

I’m not sure if all of the Canadian schools offer this - but when I was at ECIAD one of the main benefits was it’s exchange program. Students can attend ECIAD and then do a term of exchange at another school (one with much higher tuition and prestige) but still only pay the affordable ECIAD tuition. The program is highly sought after and there is limited space though so you’d better work hard.

If they still offer this program its a great benefit.

Remember though - in the end school is what you make of it.

Could you really transfer like this, say from Carleton after two years, and to Europe for the final two. Does anyone know of anyone who has done this?