"Purpose & Play" is an annual exhibition that explores new prototypes for contemporary life, showcasing the work of eight Canadian designers and studios.

On Saturday, Jan. 22, DesignTO and Umbra's VP of Design Matt Carr will host an online conversation with all the designers, talking about their prototypes, playfulness in design, and finding moments of joy in the everyday. The winner of the Best Product Award will be announced at the end of the livestream.

Sign up for free to join the livestream.

You can cast your vote for the Fan Favourite Award to the designer and prototype of your choice by Monday, Jan. 31, 2022


"Blume" is a planter with a customizable trellis that can be linked together with simple threaded knobs. Up, down, sideways and across; users can play and create new structures to help plant friends grow and thrive into any shape and size. ‘Blume’ is made using cement and wood, and can be customized to introduce colour into homes and suit any plant’s needs.

Traditions, materials and colors all have a way of engaging us, and creating both a physical and mental response. Nikki’s inspirations come from human experiences. Once one connects with an object, engages with it, it is more likely to mean something to the person. Thus creating pieces that are cherished and used. In 2018 Nikki started their full time design practice, Nikki Alagha Design. A product design company with a focus on furniture, lighting and jewelry design.


The more time we spend inside our homes, the more we crave objects that are not only functional, but also pieces that stimulate our imagination with novel forms, colours, and uses. ‘Frooot’ is a playful new take on an often overlooked kitchen fixture. Made of translucent acrylic, the bowl’s frosted finish allows light to shine through its entire form, giving it, and everything it holds, an ethereal glow.

Maha is a Canadian industrial designer. Currently in Berlin, but mostly based in Toronto. Maha like to work with metal tube, at least for now.


"Swing Like No Other" is a playful exploration of triangular geometry designed to address the need for outdoor relaxation within a contemporary architecture setting. The principal triangle acts as the main support system with a secondary triangle to support the bench. Both triangles drape over the pole, like a strap. The side view of the swing exposes two triangles, mimicking the popular swings found in suburban backyards in the 1970s.

Melinda Hart, graduate in architecture (2002) and in Design Art (1998), is a member of the Ordre des Architectes du Québec since 2010. She has worked directly with various specialty industrial experts within wood timber construction, curtain walls and steel. Under her leadership, many of her achievements have won awards of excellence and many have been cited in magazine articles. In 2015, Melinda Hart founded hART design: architecture / object / urban design to continue her research and development.


"Blob" was born during the dispiriting time of the pandemic. It is a battery powered bubble making machine that is sensitive to touch. ‘Blob’ was designed to bring some wonder and hope to the gloomy moments in our lives. Its organic shape is inspired by dark clouds but spawns a little joy instead of misery. ‘Blob’ can be hung on any vertical surface with easy access to refill the bubble solution.

After graduating from the industrial design program at OCAD University in 2017, Hi Thanks Bye decided to take part in the design world by forming a league of their own. The team is not afraid of iterating, starting from scratch, having opposite opinions, arguing with each other for a design solution while never being offended. The team does not pile forms up or lay shapes down just to make things look ‘pretty.’ It is certainly part of what they do, but they like to build narratives through designs. To learn and tell stories through new perspectives, constantly.


Iris is wall-mounted light created using 3-D printing and post-processing techniques. It focuses on using a simple circular shape to provide warm light in all directions. A small oak dowel placed in the centre is used as a natural accent material, as well as to draw in the viewer. This central point complements the motion which is used to turn on the light itself. The user turns the body of the light like a dial to control the intensity of light visible.

Christopher is a Canadian industrial designer with a skill set in design research, furniture design, product design, and additive manufacturing. He believes in designing from the ground up; from researching the target audience to physical prototyping and testing. This may sound like a never-ending cycle of refinement but for him that is the best part about being a designer. He hopes to continue to learn and hone the skills for creating designs that can genuinely impact people around us.


"Turntable" is a literal interpretation of its namesake, functioning as both a 12” vinyl player and side table. With the vinyl player re-envisioned as a piece of furniture, the piece aims to provide comfort in the grounded tactility that the analog medium offers in a digital world. The freestanding unit includes a speaker and is battery-powered, allowing for movement around indoor spaces.

Dom is an American-Canadian designer living and working in Toronto. He currently maintains his own studio, montante.design, teaches at the online design program, Offsite, of which he is a co-founder, and serves on the board of the program’s parent non-profit, Advanced Design. Of Italian and Lao descent, he comes from a culturally dichotomous background from which drives his personal practice. Dom believes there are no political or cultural boundaries to creativity and often seeks inspiration from the lesser trodden paths of design. In the end, Dom’s mission is simple: to create objects that make people smile.


The "Repeated Circles Coffee Table" is a playful addition to any living space. The piece is made from solid white oak, with a fused glass insert, and a dyed veneer shelf. Its asymmetrical design and many disparate elements come together to form a quirky cohesive piece.

Alison Postma (they/she) is an artist based in Toronto. They graduated from the University of Guelph’s Studio Art program in 2016. Alison's practice is multidisciplinary, working mainly in photography, video, and sculpture. In September 2020, she became a cofounder of a new collective-run gallery space in Toronto, The Plumb. Alison’s practice often involves working with found objects and juxtaposing them. Their work is intuitive, exploring thematic interests that include the relationship between objects and the body, skewed perception in alternate states of reality, and perspectives on past, present, and future.


"Paint By No Numbers" is a way to bring art to the masses by providing unique shapes that hang in different configurations to create a “painting that is not a painting”. L-shaped screw hooks can be arranged to suit any space. Coloured lucite shapes have holes in them to hang on the hooks. The shapes are both translucent and opaque, allowing for beautiful colour overlaps to occur.

Leisa Rich is an experimental artist working in fibers and mixed media. Rich holds MFA and BFA degrees in Fiber and a BEd Art degree. She exhibits internationally, is featured in many books, publications, and on-line features, and has works in public and private collections including Delta Inc., Emory Medical, Dallas Museum of Art and the Kamm Foundation. Rich writes for mags and on-line publications, published her first children’s book in 2015, and recently published a series of how-to magazines on Fosshape. She is the recipient of a Fulton County Arts and Culture Hambidge Distinguished Fellowship.