OCAD, university of imagination

By Vesa Rantanen, doing his exchange period at OCAD, Toronto

I currently study in exchange program at Integrated Media in OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.
OCAD has huge depth and breadth in visual arts and design programs. Emphasis on imagination, functionality and critical inquiry, OCAD is -by far- the most distinguished art and design school in Canada.

OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University

Also, for me it is the foremost high-flying and demanding school I have ever been to. Studying here is all about getting your feet wet, rationalizing your work, and critical engagement in design.

OCAD´s way of approach to design differs a lot from TAMK´s. First, OCAD is a university and thus, more academic. BA students take courses in social studies (i.e..culture anthropology, psychology) and have more theory courses in general. In addition, projects involve more research, reasoning and written process work. At the end  of the day, it is more important to justify your decisions, clarify the process to others, rationalize your design and demonstrate the functionality of it. Also it is important to know how to place yourself in the creative field, how it affects you and vice versa.
Design itself is, in some assignments, only a fraction of the final mark.
From the magazine Vesa has made at OCAD with
the topic"Observations of an outsider in Toronto"

OCAD is very demanding in terms of professional way of approach to everything students produce. Half-baked work is automatically a fail (of course, a subject of consideration by professors). Students are constantly pushed to go beyond their comfort zone. Result is prominent; classes full of confident, talented young designers and artist who produce new, high-quality material all the time.
Amount of classes available is overwhelming. From 3D printing to nano publishing and guerrilla entrepreneurship, focused courses specialize to basically anything you feel like wanting.

Unconventional learning methods are widely supported. Like exquisite corpses, where one day, all of a sudden, professor mixes up everyone’s work by saying "Hand your work to the person sitting next to you".  Then students take up where the initial designer left and continue from there.
Not always the methods are that progressive and insightful; In my 3D print class, professor announced, that in two weeks, each of us should know our ways around in Rhinoceros 3D software, which is beyond complicated. And learn it by ourselves.
From the magazine Vesa has made at OCAD with
the topic "Observations of an outsider in Toronto"

Tempo of work is high. In my first classes, I did not realize that the assignments given we´re for next week. Telling by the amount of work, I thought they were coursework's for which there would be three months of time to work.

Sounds rough, huh? It is. On the other hand, I have learned a lot of crucial and essential information a designer should have.  Also I have produced more work in few months than I did the last whole year.

Canada holds some weird prejudices, that are, for sure, out of date.
Lumberjacks with flannel shirts on, chasing beavers? Ice hockey players with no teeth, constantly saying Ehhhh? Maple syrup on top of everything?
Canada is one of the most progressive countries in the world. Canadians are pioneers when it comes to art and design. They influence from the diverse nature and it shows. Canada embraces it ́s nature as well as preserves it. Even though the biggest imperium of twentieth-century lives right next door, Canadians keep to themselves. I founded that as something very positive. Canada is not the hat of the US. It is it´s own, prosperous and progressive country with amazing, laid-back people.

For now, I have been too busy to travel outside of Toronto, but I don´t mind. Toronto is Canada´s biggest city with approximately 3 million people (6 million in GTA).  A major north-American metropolitan city has everything a young fellow can wish for; lively music scene, bars, cultural happenings. A rich and vivid street culture in general.

For those, who might be looking for a prospective exchange at OCAD, go for it! Yet, keep in mind not to book too much stuff for the time in here. School work takes a lot, so prepare to spend long hours and weekends working (some classes end at 10:30pm anyways). Then again, you will -for sure- walk out of the school as a better designer you were before coming here.

The author is a student of our International Media Programme
Read more about student exchange
Read more stories by and about IMPs, the Media students