Experiences of Affordability

Date: 2018-2019
Category: Educational-course, academic
Form: Major project, publication, exhibition, charrette

Experiences of Affordability


This year, the IwB is shifting its research focus to investigate the emerging economic, environmental, technological, societal and cultural forces shaping society and their impact on human experiences of affordability. As basic human needs become increasingly expensive in major urban centres around the world, this is an opportunity to use design as a method to understand and direct these emerging forces to imagine more affordable futures—redefining and designing affordability in the context of the 21st century.

Future Ways of Living:

As we transition to the 21st century, global forces such as geopolitical fragility, mass migration, income inequality, rapid urbanization, economic restructuring, precarious employment, global warming, and exponential technological innovation are challenging our existing societal constructs and transforming the ways we live. This can have both positive and negative impacts on our human experiences, and as designers, we often react to these forces rather than anticipate them to achieve our collective aspirations.
Future Ways of Living is both a research method and a call to action developed to foster anticipatory design. As a research method, it aims to investigate and visualize the past and present forces shaping society, which inform an understanding of potential futures. As a call to action, it challenges us to imagine and create what ought to be, rather than what exists. This approach encourages the development of tangible design outcomes that can contribute to more responsible, humane, sustainable, democratic, and resilient futures.

Project Goals:

Over the course of this year, students will be challenged to:

  • Define, visualize and communicate the universal factors affecting affordability.
  • Identify emerging forces, trends, and insights that will impact the future of affordability.
  • Create scenarios of affordability that demonstrate potential futures.
  • Develop products, services, systems, infrastructure and communication mechanisms that demonstrate how we can influence the experiences of affordability through design action.


There are a number of human factors that impact the experiences of affordability. How can we influence this experience through different design actions?

The investigation of Experiences of Affordability poses the question “how can design action shape and influence the experiences of affordability?”

Project Context & Year Ahead

Throughout the 2018-19 academic year, affordability will be explored in the context of Future Ways of Living—encouraging a holistic, forward-thinking approach to inform design outcomes.

Affordability is typically associated with the ability to purchase goods and services required to fulfill human needs, such as shelter, food, health, energy, clothing, transportation, and education. As these costs surge in cities around the world, the percentage of household income spent on basic human needs is becoming increasingly unsustainable. This is a complex global issue that requires new perspectives and creative solutions. As a result, this year will be dedicated to redefining and designing for affordability in the current context of social, economic, political, technological and cultural transformation.

Stay tuned for more about Experiences of Affordability!

Orientation Week – September 2018

During orientation week, students are introduced to their cohort, IwB philosophies, values, expectations, approaches, faculty and staff. Students take part in an initial project to become better familiarized with the year’s research theme and to develop their collaborative skills. This year, the orientation week project tasked the students with defining affordability and mapping its factors and interdependencies. In addition, students are given a tour of the college and neighbourhood to become better acquainted with the George Brown College community and ecosystem.

IwB Fall Charrette – October 2018

The Institute without Boundaries has partnered with Huge Inc. to host the “Scenarios of Affordability” Charrette from October 15th to 19th. During the charrette, IwB students, faculty and staff will imagine future scenarios of affordability and bring these scenarios to life through ideation and concept development. Students will explore how the human experiences of affordability might transform over time and propose design solutions that consider what affordability will look like now and in 2050. Throughout the process, they will be guided by IwB faculty and expert advisors from Huge Inc. and other partner organizations to develop a balance of products, systems, services, infrastructure and communication mechanisms rooted in research and ideation.

DesignTO Festival – January 2019

DesignTO (formerly Toronto Design Offsite Festival) runs every year during Toronto Design Week and showcases work from various design studios and independent designers and artists.

From January 20–26, 2019, IwB students will bring to life the experiences of affordability through an interactive, multisensory exhibition hosted at the School of Design, George Brown College. Students will use this exhibition as a platform to receive insightful data that will help define the global factors of affordability and contribute to their final project outcomes.

To find out more about past IwB DesignTO events see the DesignTO website.

IwB International Charrette – February 2019

The IwB is hosting the 15th annual International Charrette at the School of Design, George Brown College from February 20th to 24th, 2019. Each year, the IwB challenges students from around the world to fundamentally rethink what it means to be a designer. During the charrette, participants will explore the future of affordability and develop solutions in an intensive, collaborative process that brings together students from different disciplines, and design professionals from around the world. This year, the students are challenged with understanding, visualizing and proposing innovative and sustainable design solutions to address the global affordability crisis. To tackle this issue, participants will be exposed to new tools, methods, and approaches that will challenge them to become better designers and collaborators.

School of Design Year End Show (Y.E.S) Exhibition- April 2019

During this exhibition, students will have the opportunity to showcase their year-long design process, research insights, and design solutions. IwB students will use this exhibition as an engagement pop-up to gain meaningful feedback from industry partners, GBC students, and the public in order to push their project forward and prepare for their final exhibition.

Prototyping Charrette- May 2019

In May 2019, IwB students will take part in a two-week charrette in collaboration with disciplines within the George Brown College ecosystem to test and prototype their design solutions. During the charrette, the IwB team will lead and work with students from Graphic Design, Interactive Media Management, and Interaction Design and Development Program among others to fine tune and finalize their design outcomes. The focus and themes of the Prototyping Charrette will be developed from the students’ year-long research insights and will directly lead to the development of the final exhibition.

Final Exhibit & Presentation – May/June 2019

The IwB students will showcase their year-long research insights on the future of affordability and its impact on daily human experiences. Demonstrating their design outcomes, the IwB students will highlight the work developed throughout the year including the scenarios of affordability, projects developed throughout the International and Prototyping Charrettes as well as DesignTO and Y.E.S Exhibitions.

Project Credits:
IwB staff and faculty 2018-19


Image Credits:
Giacomo Buratti

Project Tags:
Future Ways of Living, Experiences of Affordability, affordability, Toronto, Greater Toronto Area, GTA, connection, municipal planning,