Design for Startups is unique program in which student designers join early-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 Living Labs, one of four research centres at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. We support 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

The deadline for participating in 2019 has now passed. We are currently accepting contact information for companies interested in participating in upcoming rounds of Design for Startups.

Design for Startups matches highly skilled design students from Emily Carr with early-stage tech companies seeking emerging creative talent.

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 for twelve weeks
  • Students also meet weekly with Emily Carr faculty and designers in a lab setting, where they are supported in keeping projects on track

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 and branding to transform Karmahire into Callings
  • Designing the creation tool from idea to wireframe for Cognilab
  • Overhauling the form and function of email campaigns for Spacelist
  • Creating icons and data visualizations to represent user libraries for BitLit
  • Designing a mobile app for Koho

What skills to these designers have?
These designers are usually in their 3rd or 4th year, and sometimes pursuing graduate Masters of Design or Masters of Applied Arts degrees, with expertise in interaction design, industrial design, and/ communication design,  interface and usability, user testing, branding, user research and profiling, ideation and selection, and prototyping. This project is best suited to early stage technology companies, particularly SaaS.

Companies make a contribution of $1,600 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 (January - April 2019)

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 Living Labs: or 604 630 4573.

November 2, 2018

For Designers

Living Labs will be hiring ten students to work with ten companies starting January 2019.

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

The deadline for participating in 2019 has now passed. Please check back in late 2019 to participate in the 2020 program.

For more information contact Living Labs at