Last Friday, the Designer Adventure Club sent out a few select invites encouraging recipients to ‘mess about in boats’ late August outside Paris, Ontario. Slack channels in design shops across the GTA were abuzz over the weekend with the same question: what’s this all about?
Designer Adventure Club is a new seasonal event series organized in partnership between HIGHLINE and The Working Group. The pair is hoping to send what it calls a “hand-picked group of fun and friendly design folks” down the Grand River, then fill them with good food and better conversation.
As you might gather, this is not your typical Toronto tech event.
“While it’s amazing to see the sheer magnitude of events happening in Toronto these days, we wanted to create something that pulled people away from their day to day environment and gave them space to think,” Alex Lynn, HIGHLINE’s Platform Director, told us.
“Most VCs say that crap, but very few roll up their sleeves to authentically foster community.”
While novel, the Designer Adventure Club is just the most recent investment in the Canadian design community by HIGHLINE, which has a long-standing partnership with Emily Carr University. HIGHLINE founder and CEO Marcus Daniels was explicit when asked about the accelerator’s design focus.
“One of the many reasons why we care about this initiative is that as investors we deeply value both design thinking and great design execution in the startups we fund,” Daniels said. “Most VCs say that crap, but very few roll up their sleeves to authentically foster community around that by doing something about it.”
Speaking with TWG’s Marketing & Partnerships Lead, Holly Knowlman, it was clear that support for the local design community was also a contributing factor – as local as in its own office, in fact. “Our design team was telling us that they were underrepresented when you look at the community events landscape, so we wanted to see what we could do to change that,” she said.
Knowlman explained that, as a seasonal event series, the Designer Adventure Club will vary broadly in focus and activity depending on the time of year, keeping the series fresh while still highly curated. “We believe that taking people out of their comfort zone facilitates deep connection building, and that new environments stimulate creativity, which is why we’ve chosen to do something more experiential,” she said.
Of course, one of those specific experiments is the Designer Adventure Club’s application-only acceptance process. Lynn explained that the decision wasn’t one based on exclusion, but on understanding the needs, interests, and goals of its target audience.
“Attendees are a big part part of any event,” Lynn said. “We built Designer Adventure Club for makers and want to ensure they’re proudly represented. We’re asking people to apply so we can get a sense of who they are and what makes them tick. We’re not judging the quality of anybody’s work. We just want to know they’re makers at heart. With a new adventure every season, we hope a wide range of people can join us for fun.”
Lynn also indicated that if the event series is a hit, it could expand across Canada in the future. Those interested in submitting an application for the Designer Adventure Club can do so here.
Disclosure: BetaKit’s East and West Coast offices are housed in HIGHLINE’s Vancouver and Toronto co-working spaces.