Design Exchange

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Design Exchange (DX)
Toronto Stock Exchange.jpg
Location234 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°38′52″N 79°22′48″W / 43.64774°N 79.38011°W / 43.64774; -79.38011
TypeDesign, Education Centre
Visitors225 000 +
PresidentRazor Suleman
Public transit access
  • TTC - Line 1 - Yonge-University-Spadina line.svg King
  • BSicon CLRV.svg  504

The Design Exchange (DX) is a cultural organization that champions creative thinking, inspires problem solving, and celebrates innovative talent in Canada and around the world in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. DX serves as Canada's design hub, by being a crossroads for multiple disciplines that demonstrate the power of design, innovation, and technology to change the world for the better for everyone, through the delivery of a range of engaging and enriching public programs and exhibitions.

DX is a not-for-profit registered charity the relies on generous donations to develop experiences and initiatives that create meaningful impact informed by a global outlook. Design Exchange is located in Toronto's financial district in the historic Toronto Stock Exchange building.[1]

As of September 2021 the DX website is no longer online, and it appears as though the centre and organization are now defunct.


The building presently occupied by the Design Exchange was used by the Toronto Stock Exchange from 1937 to 1978.

The federal agency Design Canada closed in 1985, followed by the University of Toronto's (soon rescinded) announcement in 1986 that it intended to close its school of architecture. In 1983 the Toronto Stock Exchange had abandoned its historic home for the last 46 years at 234 Bay Street, which had been declared a heritage property in 1978.[2] Olympia and York (O&Y) purchased the building.[3][4] In return for the air rights to build an office tower on the site, O&Y agreed to retain and restore the building.

O&Y commissioned a study to consider the idea of using the trading floor as a public facility. The study indicated that Toronto designers would support a cultural design centre. In January 1986, a group of designers organized an event to lobby Toronto City Hall in support of the initiative. City officials recognized a body of ten citizens as "The Group for the Creation of a Design Centre in Toronto", which was incorporated on February 6, 1987, and came to be known as the Design Exchange.

At the prompting of the citizens' group, city staff funded a study which determined that a design centre in the old Toronto Stock Exchange "was both possible and desirable."[5]

In 1986, O&Y sold the Bay Street property to Cadillac Fairview and The Toronto Dominion Bank (Toronto-Dominion Centre West Limited), conditional on the design centre concept being retained. The new owner was also required to provide $500,000 to the city for 25 years, which would, in turn, be passed along (minus a 10% holdback) onto the design centre to offset operating costs. This agreement, in effect, gave the Design Exchange operating rights in the historic building.[6]

In 1988 the design centre was named the Design Exchange and the original citizens' group was made the founding board. The group established a Board of Management (which included the founding board and citizens and a couple of city councillors). Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects was commissioned to renovate and enlarge the non-heritage-designated spaces (exhibition spaces, administrative office space, the resource centre and meeting rooms).

The same year the Group for the Creation of a Design Centre in Toronto began a capital campaign drive aimed at raising funds from the private and public sectors. In 1993, after years of lobbying, the federal and provincial governments confirmed funding for capital expenses in the sum of $6.3 million. In 1994, The Group became the sub-tenant with a long-term lease until 2091. On September 21, 1994, the Design Exchange was officially opened by Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. Howard Cohen, now of Context Development, was named the first President.

In 1996 the Design Exchange set a mandate for its Permanent Collection: to collect the best Canadian materials designed since 1945. As of 2016, the DX Permanent Collection contained approximately 600 items, however, the collection was deaccessioned in 2019. Design Exchange has mounted more than 400 exhibitions, organized hundreds of seminars, lectures, international conferences and educational programs and publications related to the role of design in culture, industry, and business.

From 2003 to 2011, under the leadership of President and CEO Samantha Sannella, the Design Exchange focused on promoting the value of Canadian design and its contribution to the economy, environment and quality of life. During this time, the DX hosted numerous domestic and international exhibitions and created hundreds of programs with the goal to educate the public. This included the creation of Design Camps and an extensive curriculum was developed targeting children 18 and under - with a special outreach program entitled, Designers in the Classroom. Numerous annual design competitions for high school students and university students were created that awarded scholarships nationally for design excellence. Additionally, workshops, lectures and classes for adults were held monthly. Notable exhibits included: Costume Design from the Academy Awards, Canadian Architecture curated by Chris Hume, Japan 100 Design, Milano: Italian Design curated by Studio Zuccaro, Design for the Other 90%, New Materials in Design, Carrot City and Tokyo Doll. Industry events included the annual the Design Exchange awards. This was a national design competition open to professional designers across Canada. The awards promoted Canadian design excellence and recognize the critical role of design in business. The Awards celebrated the success stories achieved through close partnerships between clients and designers. Projects were recognized for balancing function, aesthetics, and economic success. During this period, all major design disciplines were emphasized: Architecture, Interior Design, Fashion, Industrial Design and Graphic Design and the DX published many books across these themes including: Ourtopias, a collection of essays about cities and their role in design, edited by Paola Poletto and Phillip Beasley and The Art of Clairtone, by Nina Munk and Rachel Gotleib, a compelling story about Peter Munk's Canadian stereo company. As part of an export initiative, The DX organized numerous programs that helped entrepreneurial Canadian Designers showcase their products in foreign markets including the UK, Hong Kong and Mexico. Moreover, the DX annual fundraising gala was created, which was named one of the top 10 fundraising galas in Toronto.

A gift shop at the Design Exchange, June 2012. Several months earlier, the museum began to operate exclusively as a museum for design.

In March 2012 the Design Exchange came under the directorship of Shauna Levy, and began to operate exclusively as a Design Museum - Canada's only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage.[7]

Under the leadership of Shauna Levy[8] and a renewed strategic vision embraced in March 2012, DX has hosted renowned traveling exhibitions from prestigious cultural institutions across the globe, including Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Show and Design Museum London's Christian Louboutin retrospective, alongside its own This Is Not A Toy, guest curated by Pharrell Williams. Other exhibitions and events have included design elements from the National Ballet of Canada, a display of fashion items from the Hermès design house, a social history of women's undergarments, and DX Uncrated: Classic Plastics.

In May 2015, DX launched a new direction with DX Satellite, a program of exhibitions located in various neighbourhoods throughout the city. By taking cultural experiences beyond the bricks and mortar of the DX building, this new satellite series allows a broad and diverse demographic to benefit from DX programs. This includes 3DXL - A Large-Scale 3D Printing Exhibition, and Smarter.Faster.Tougher. - an exhibition on Sports, Fashion + Tech that coincided with the Pan Am Games in 2015.[9]

Charitable Registration No. 119236214RR0001

In 2017, the Design Exchange launched a 10-day festival called Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology (EDIT), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. The festival was held in East Harbour, a disused Unilever soap factory.[10]

In 2019, the DX named new leadership, Razor Suleman to the position of chief executive officer (CEO), effective immediately. In this role, Suleman will be responsible for the development and implementation of the organization's new strategic direction. The Design Exchange's collection was deaccessioned in the same year, with the institution ceasing operation of its design museum.[11][12] The closure of the museum saw the Design Exchange's efforts reoriented towards the biennial EDIT: Expo for Design Innovation and Technology event.[11]

The planned 2020 EDIT Expo did not occur, due in part to the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of September 2021 the DX website is no longer online, and it appears as though the centre and organization are defunct.


The Museum is affiliated with Canadian Museums Association, Canadian Heritage Information Network, and Virtual Museum of Canada.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Design Exchange puts A-list on the auction block: Style Czar". Toronto Star, Karen von Hahn May 19, 2015
  2. ^ "Toronto's architectural gems–the Design Exchange (The original Toronto Stock Exchange)". Historic Toronto. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  3. ^ "234 Bay St". Heritage Property Detail. City of Toronto. 20 Jun 1973. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  4. ^ "TO DESIGNATE THE PROPERTY AT NO. 232 BAY STREET OF ARCHITECTURAL VALUE AND OF HISTORIC INTEREST". By-law 1978-0570. City of Toronto. 14 August 1978. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  5. ^ [Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management Inc., "Design Centre Feasibility Study" (Toronto: report prepared for City of Toronto Economic Development Committee, 1987)].
  6. ^ "Design Exchange | History + Founders". Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  7. ^ Proteau, Adam. "Raising capital at the Design Exchange"
  8. ^ "Shauna Levy raises Design Exchange's capital". 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  9. ^ "Sport and fashion collide at new Design Exchange exhibition". Toronto Star, Karen von Hahn July 14, 2015
  10. ^ "Six highlights of Toronto's upcoming EDIT design festival". Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  11. ^ a b Cormier, Brendan (23 August 2019). "Canada no longer has a design museum. That's a blueprint for failure". The Globe and Mail. The Woodbridge Company. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  12. ^ Gibson, Eleanor (29 August 2019). "Closure of Canada's only design museum shows "lack of support for design" says V&A curator". Dezeen. Retrieved 11 April 2020.

External links[edit]

Media related to Design Exchange at Wikimedia Commons