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

  • Program Name:
    Interdisciplinary Design Strategy
  • Code: G414
  • Credential:
    Ontario College Graduate Certificate
  • Method of Study:
  • Duration:
    9 months
  • Centre:
  • School:
  • Location: Waterfront Campus
  • Starting Months: September
  • Domestic Tuition:
    $14,166.00 *

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Program Overview

Each September, a small group of students begin 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 begin 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. For more information, visit

Program Learning Outcomes

The graduate has reliably demonstrated the ability to:

  1. Apply universal and sustainable design principles to complex global problems in order to create intelligent solutions that address environmental, social and economic challenges.
  2. Manage an Integrated Design Process to deliver human-centred design strategy projects for government, corporations and non-profit organizations.
  3. Design collaboratively in an interdisciplinary studio environment to complete environmental, communication, product, service and system design projects.
  4. Apply primary and secondary research methodologies to the design process using a think/make practice model to achieve project outcomes that meet user needs.
  5. Adhere to the professional practices of a design studio in order to facilitate the success of design teams in achieving project results.
  6. Participate in a multi-phase design process in order to create a holistic, integrated, and realistic design project.
  7. Liaise and manage the design process to provide solutions for clients including design, documentation, tendering, fabrication and delivery.
  8. Present research results and design solutions to a diverse audience utilizing effective communication strategies.


Required Courses


semester courses
Code Course Name
DESN4003 Design Project 1: Communications
DESN4012 Design Project 2: Product, Systems & Services
DESN4005 Design Project 3: Environment
DESN4007 Design Issues, History and Theory
DESN4008 Integrated Design Process: Tools, Strategies, Methods and Practices
DESN4009 Charrettes I
DESN4010 Major Project: Preparation


semester courses
Code Course Name
DESN4021 Major Project: Development
DESN4022 Major Project: Communication
DESN4024 Charrettes II
DESN4026 Work Experience Placement
DESN4027 Integrated Design Process II

Detailed course outlines

General Education Electives

Articulation Agreement

Students who successfully complete the graduate certificate in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the School of Design, George Brown College, are eligible to apply for advanced entry into a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Design Strategies offered by the Institute of Art, Design + Technology in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. Learn more about this opportunity.

Career & Postgraduate Study Opportunities

Your Career

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
  • their own 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.

Tuition and Fees


$14,166.00 *

Additional Costs

* Amounts listed are the total of tuition, materials (non-refundable), student service and ancillary fees for the first two semesters of programs starting in Fall 2018. Fees are subject to change for programs starting in Fall 2019 and at later dates.

International students: Visit the International Fees and Related Costs page for more information. Please note that International student tuition is approximately $23,978.

Some specialized programs have higher tuition fees which will be specified on official College invoices.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is subject to change without notice. It should not be viewed as a representation, offer or warranty. Students are responsible for verifying George Brown College fee requirements.

How to Qualify and Apply

Admission Requirements

  • Diploma or Bachelor's Degree
  • Applicant Questionnaire*
  • Resume*
  • Digital Portfolio*
  • Two letters of reference (one academic and one professional)**
  • Interview***

* Qualified applicants will be invited to complete the online application questionnaire, including links to view or download a resume and portfolio.

** Qualified applicants will also be invited to provide two letters of reference, to be submitted directly to the School of Design by the referees.

*** Following the review of the application questionnaire, resume, portfolio and letters of reference, qualified applicants may also be invited for an interview.

Details on these supplementary requirements will be communicated at a later date to qualified applicants, as part of the review process.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants with international transcripts who do not provide English proficiency test results must test at the College level in the George Brown College English assessment to be considered for admission.

Please visit for more details.

International (Visa) Students

Visit the International Admissions page for more information.

Note: This program continues to accept applications until the seats are filled, which is typically July or August before the September start date. Check the program availability page for program status.

How to Apply

Apply To

Domestic students should apply through Ontario Colleges

Student Success

Student Name
Michael Esteras

“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.”

Contact Us

School of Design

Phone: 416-415-5000, ext. 2137


Special Projects and Lab Coordinator, School of Design and Institute without Boundaries: Lori Endes,, 416 415-5000 ext. 2029

For more information about George Brown College, you may also call the Contact Centre at 416-415-2000 (TTY 1-877-515-5559) or long distance 1-800-265-2002.

Visit Our Campus

This program is part of our School of Design and is located at our Waterfront Campus at 3 Lower Jarvis St.

On-campus information sessions are available. Come and have your questions answered. Learn about the program content and career options, meet your friendly professors and staff, and experience what it is like to be in a George Brown College classroom at one of our information sessions. You can also book a tour of the campus or explore our virtual tour.

The new home of the School of Design

In 2019 the School of Design moved to the Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts complex at our Waterfront Campus. This 103,000-square-foot facility houses our design programs and serves as a research hub. It also includes the following features:

  • Virtual and augmented reality lab
  • Usability and testing lab
  • Future Ways of Living lab
  • Peer Tutor lab
  • Digital Sandbox
  • Incubators
  • Prototyping and workshop spaces

Additional information can also be found at

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