Interdisciplinary Design Strategy Program (Postgraduate) at the Institute Without Boundaries (G414)

Program Description

Program Overview

Each September, a small group of students begins a nine-month program in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the Institute without Boundaries, where they work as a team to research, design and realize a real-world project.

Full Description

Each September, a small group of students begins a nine-month graduate certificate program in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the Institute without Boundaries (IwB), where they work as a team to research, design and realize a real-world project. Initiated in 2003, this program delves into the methods and practices of design research, strategy and social innovation. It is a unique educational experience offered by George Brown College in partnership with leading designers and industry.

Transform the world

Our aim is to produce a new breed of designer who can articulate possibilities – one who is, in the words of Buckminster Fuller, a "synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist."

Cross boundaries

This program will accept strong candidates representing different fields – for example, a geographer, an economist, an artist, an architect, a journalist and others – all of whom see the potential for design to change the world.

Broaden horizons

Projects at the Institute without Boundaries often involve international travel to collaborate with communities around the world. Some examples of the places we’ve been include Matapalo (Costa Rica), Lota (Chile), Milan (Italy), Dublin (Ireland), New York City and Chicago. Students are responsible for some additional travel expenses for projects like these.

Deal with reality

The first project of the Institute, created by the 2003 and 2004 classes, was Massive Change: The Future of Global Design, which resulted in a book and travelling exhibition. The World House Project, a three-year initiative, looked at housing systems that are globally responsible and locally appropriate. Students and faculty developed housing models for Canada and Costa Rica that are sustainable, intelligent, universal and affordable.

In September 2009, the Institute embarked on a new project: City Systems. The objective was to explore, dissect and re-imagine the complexities of urban life. Over the course of four years, the Institute partnered with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation on a community rejuvenation proposal for Flemingdon Park; the municipality of Lota (Chile) and its citizens on a project about proactive local action following the earthquake in 2010; the City of Markham on a “change lab” for community building and innovation; and Dublin City Council on “Our Dublin,” a civic engagement program to create transparency and clearer communication between city government and the public.

In 2013, the Institute expanded on City Systems with a new five-year initiative: Regional Ecologies, looking at urbanization as a regional phenomenon. In year one, the Institute focused on the three gateway cities of Toronto, New York and Chicago. In year two, the IwB began the next chapter of Regional Ecologies, Divided Places, examining regions characterized by sharp differences in wealth, infrastructure and density where virtual and physical segmentation creates stark social, economic and political inequalities. In year three, the IwB explored "Interstitial Zones." These areas are commonly defined as rural, but they are "in-between" sites that can also include suburbs, agricultural zones, industrial hubs and small-scale craft production areas and towns. The Institute partnered with the Kerry County Council to design strategies for rural areas in southwest Ireland.

In 2016–17, the Institute continued its research on Regional Ecologies, focusing on "symbiotic regions" with the challenge to demonstrate how cities can cooperate at a regional scale to better deliver services, attract investment and create more resilient social and physical infrastructure for living regionally. The partner was Waterfront Toronto.

In 2017–18, the IwB worked with Toronto Global, Neptis Foundation and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity to rethink the Toronto Region as a unified economic region and catalyst for attracting investment.

Learn by doing

Students will engage in a full range of creative work necessary for interdisciplinary design strategy, from research and writing to design and production, and will learn everything necessary to realize these outcomes:

  • how to ask questions
  • how to listen
  • how to research
  • how to work with images
  • how to engage others
  • how to communicate ideas
  • how to be a leader and allow others to lead
  • how to work with others
  • how to make mistakes
  • how to take risks
  • how to throw away good ideas

Join the project

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Computer Recommendation

All School of Design students are able to utilize the computers within the School of Design to complete their assignments. If a student within this program would like to purchase a personal computer to complete their work from home, we recommend the following specifications:


  • A Macbook Pro, iMac, Mac Studio, or Mac Pro that was released within the last 3 years or better.


  • Desktop or Laptop
  • Processor: Intel i5 or better
  • RAM: 16GB (minimum 8GB)
  • Graphics Card: Dedicated Graphic Card
  • Audio/Video: Camera & Microphone

Career & Postgraduate Study Opportunities

Career Options

Graduates from Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the Institute without Boundaries may find employment in a variety of organizations including:

  • not-for-profits
  • cultural institutions
  • government
  • private corporations
  • private enterprise or consulting service

Our recent graduates have secured employment worldwide in organizations such as Doctors without Borders, Art Gallery of Ontario, IDEO in California, Ministry of Culture (Costa Rica), Frog Design (New York) and Bruce Mau Design.

Educational Pathways

Educational Pathway chart. Starting from Graphic Design Program, Interaction Design and Development, College or University you can enter the Interdisciplinary Design Strategy. After the program you may go on to Design and Strategic Consulting or be a Design Entrepreneur.

“This experience has not only helped me gain new skills and prepared me for my future life, it has also enabled me to be part of creative, innovative and multifaceted projects that I’m proud of.”

Michael Esteras
Ontario College Graduate Certificate

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