Design for Startups is unique program in which student designers join early-to-mid stage company teams in order to work on a specific design problem.

Through this initiative, we have developed and tested a new model for connecting the art and design university with early-stage companies through accelerators and VC-backed portfolios.

Design for Startups is an initiative of Shumka Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, which launched in 2018 to foster the movement of artists and designers into systems and situations where their work and ideas can have the most impact.

Shumka Centre is operated by Living Labs. As one of four research centres at Emily Carr, Living Labs supports creative projects, social venture and entrepreneurship driven by art and design; build projects and partnership models that use art and design as a mechanism for innovation and community building; and connect with organizations to develop externally facing, embedded, adaptive design labs that take a form suitable to the structure and culture of organizations and the nature of the design problems to be addressed.

When the expertise of a CEO, a designer and a tech lead come together, magic happens. Design for Startups takes place at the intersection of these three approaches.


For Companies

We currently invite applications from companies interested in participating in Fall 2020 (October - December).

Design for Startups matches highly skilled design students from Emily Carr with early-to-mid stage tech companies seeking emerging creative talent.  This program was piloted in 2013 and has been successfully implemented with 50+ companies to date.

How it Works

  • You tell us what problem you would like solved
  • We match you with a designer who has the skills in that area
  • Student designers join your company team and work closely with you and your stakeholders to find solutions
  • Student designers meet with other designers weekly in a lab setting, where they are supported by Emily Carr faculty to keep the projects on track

This is not an internship program: it is a design lab that happens in partnership with participating companies and Emily Carr

Identifying an open-ended design problem is key to finding a great solution.
To develop a good design problem, begin with a goal or objective. Instead of saying “We need a newsletter”, you might say “We want to engage our community” or “We need to increase our average revenue per user”.  Good solutions can take a different form than you expect.

Past examples of Design for Startups company projects include:

  • Leading a co-creative process of user research to transform a brand
  • Designing the creation tool from idea to wireframe for Cognilab
  • Designing a touch screen interface for a hardware product
  • Overhauling the form and function of email campaigns for Spacelist
  • Creating icons and data visualizations to represent user libraries for Shelfie
  • Designing a mobile app for Koho

What skills do these designers have?
These designers are usually completing their 3rd or 4th year of undergraduate studies or first year of graduate studies, with expertise in interaction design, industrial design, and/or communication design,  interface and usability, user testing, branding, user research and profiling, ideation and selection, and prototyping. This project is best suited to technology companies that have found product-market fit, particularly SaaS.

Companies make a contribution of $2,000 toward the project. All interviewing, hiring and administration is taken care of by Emily Carr to make the process easy for companies. Designers work onsite with your company for 15/hours a week for 12 weeks (September - December 2020)

What we need from you:

  • Designers must be invited to your weekly team meetings
  • Best results happen when you engage your designer in your company team as much as possible
  • We require that designers be given freedom to develop and test ideas within the area of focus that has been set out for the 12 week period
  • You need to be available: designers will need to connect with key stakeholders at various points during the project

How to Apply
To participate, please send 2 - 3 lines about your company and briefly describe the design problem, challenge, or product area you would like to address. Please indicate whether you currently have a designer on your company team.

Contact Shumka Centre or 604 630 4573.

on June 19, 2020

For Designers

Please check back in September to apply for Fall 2020.

Successful candidates must meet the following possess the following in order to be considered for this project:

  • Be enrolled at Emily Carr University of Art + Design at 3rd or 4th year level or graduate student
  • Possess amazing design skills with the ability to work across web, UX, communication and industrial design
  • Have excellent teamwork skills and a flexible, creative attitude
  • Have strong organizational, research, communication, and presentation skills
  • Have the ability to work independently with an adaptable and professional approach
  • Use your own laptop
  • Be available to work off-site and flexible to meet with company teams as needed

Find the full posting on Artswork.

on November 22, 2019

For more information, contact Shumka Centre at