Media Releases

Rotman School design competition won by OCAD U

April 1, 2011

TORONTO, ON – A team from OCAD University in Toronto won the second annual Rotman Design Challenge, held on March 25 to 26 at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Teams from the California College of the Arts and University of Cincinnati placed second and third respectively, with a Rotman School team placing fourth in the competition organized by the Rotman Business Design Club.

“To be successful, business and design both have to live in an integrated format. I think there is the perception that OCADU is just about design that is fun and looks good. But there’s much more to it than that,” said Jessica Mills of the winning team. “In our program there is a lot of business.”

OCADU’s team focused on the early experience of breastfeeding for first-time mothers.  A successful intervention to encourage breastfeeding among new mothers could help reduce the $13 billion annual spent in the United States managing diseases like asthma and obesity that have been proven to be reduced within a breastfed population.

“I think it was an extraordinary opportunity for bringing businesses and design together, said Ryan Rosensweig of the University of Cincinnati of the competition. “In this kind of setting you really get to explore the dynamics better. I just hope this grows and that there are more opportunities for students to express themselves in this way.”

The University of Cincinnati team proposed an integrated solution designed to relieve stress for patient caregivers, particularly for elderly patients that included an online tool kit and a search engine similar to online dating site engines.

Students from the California College of the Arts created Zoom, a health education and socialization platform for women aged 65–75 who live alone. Using educational modules to teach current tools such as Facebook, Skype, and Meetup Groups, the platform facilitates online and real-world interactions between these women and their network of family, friends, and care providers.

The team from the Rotman School proposed a concept to prevent disease and encourage wellness of shift workers, particularly those in protective services such as firefighters, police and EMS personnel. The concept takes advantage of recent technological advances in sleep and exercise tracking devices, genetic testing, and phone survey assessments.

“When we started thinking about a design thinking competition, we first wondered if such a thing is possible. In some ways design thinking goes against the grain of the quantitative metrics conventionally used in business school challenges; how can you quantify empathy? What metrics do you apply to insight? We purposely created wide parameters for teams to really explore and ultimately own their solutions,” says Sam Singh, Rotman MBA’11, who was one of the competition organizers. “We felt that the best solutions would be greater than the sum of their parts and structured the case and the judging criteria accordingly.  While there might still be some debate about how these ideas measure up against each other, we felt that the best teams really dove deep into the case and were limited only by their imaginations.  We’re happy with how things went and can’t wait to continually iterate this format further into the future.”

The challenge in the competition was developed by the Center for Innovation at the Mayo Clinic in conjunction with Doblin, a Chicago-based innovation strategy firm (and a part of the Monitor Group.)

The Center for Innovation now plans to incorporate the solutions developed in this case into its patient-centric approaches to delivering improved health and wellness outcomes. Judges included representatives from the Mayo Clinic and Doblin as well as Blueprint Business Architecture, Bridgepoint Health, Rotman DesignWorks, Idea Couture, Saatchi & Saatchi, We Rep Ideas and others.

“For me it comes back to this calibration of how business students and design students are learning each other’s skills. Events like these make people aware of the differences between the different disciplines and kind of chart out the work that needs to be done in both practices,” said Ricky Thomas, a judge and Co-Head of Strategic Foresight, Idea Couture.

“It was interesting to see that the three winners were from design schools rather than from Rotman or from the other business schools,” said Helen Walters of Doblin, who gave the day’s keynote speech. “But you could see that all of the teams put an enormous amount of effort into their solutions and it was super interesting to compare and contrast how people tackled the problems. There was a lot of emotion, energy and effort involved.”

With a belief that the mindsets and practices behind great design can also be applied to the breakthrough growth of enterprises and institutions, the Rotman School has been teaching students and organizations about Business Design since 2006. In essence, Business Design blends design methodologies and business acumen to create a process that helps identify broader opportunities, create new ideas and accelerate market success. Learn more about Business Design at the Rotman School at

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is redesigning business education for the 21st century with a curriculum based on Integrative Thinking. Located in the world’s most diverse city, the Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables the design of creative business solutions.  The School is currently raising $200 million to ensure Canada has the world-class business school it deserves. For more information, visit



For more information, please contact:

Ken McGuffin
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
Voice 416.946.3818
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