Nor is a living and open commons of Canadian design. It is a not-for-profit, co-operative and collective effort to document, preserve, and question our material culture.
This is the home of the editorial wing of Nor, and the central meeting place for everything we are doing and building.
Want to get involved? Join up as a supporter here – this gives you access to our regular email publication, and gives you the option of backing our work through a monthly or annual contribution.
Want to get more involved than that? Great! Nor is a member-driven co-operative. We're always on the lookout for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and join in. Email us for more info on that.
01. Document, preserve, question
At the heart of Nor is the Nor Collection, a living and open commons of design within the geographic borders of the land called Canada. It is a foundation from which we can interrogate the diverse and constantly reinventing ways design has shaped the culture and histories of the many peoples on this land, and how design in turn was shaped by these. It is not a static archive – it strives to deconstruct and use archival and curatorial approaches in ways that empower and challenge, rather than extract, itemize, & appropriate.
02. Be a living design museum, not just an archive.
Nor builds upon its commons to provide the many roles of a museum that design needs, beyond collection – education, advocacy, connection, and spaces for developing shared or disparate identities. It works to increase export potential and the viability of design practice for all practitioners, however they define that viability.
03. Be an interface between worlds
Nor offers an interface between worlds, building connections between practitioners across sectors, even ones not traditionally considered “design”. It understands that design is a vital contributor to society on several levels, and it works to connect industry with society.
04. Bring theory into practice and practice into theory
Nor works to make critical discourse accessible to practicing designers, and bring practitioners into conversation with critics and academics. Engage with, make accessible, and explore how design interacts with the concepts and visions driving a sustainable, equitable, and decolonized society.
05. Be a champion of a more challenging discourse
Nor works to supplant cheerleading in Canadian design criticism with tools and approaches built around robust, rigorous, and inclusive discourse. It celebrates process and possibility by interrogating them deeply and caring about the people who think, create and make.
06. Understand that all design is critical
Nor does not operate under a rigid single definition of design. It does not exist to create or gatekeep on matters of taste or arbitrary definitions of quality or worth. In the Nor Collection, a prison fence is as much a designed item as a poster. All raise questions worth answering, and nuances worth cataloguing.
07. Operative with an inclusive and equitable organisational structure
Nor will operate under an equitable and ethical not for profit co-operative model of ownership and decision making. The organisation is a steward, not a profit seeker.
Launched almost 20 years ago as the Canadian Design Resource, we began as Canada’s first crowdsourced cultural history platform. In what started in an ad hoc manner, we captured stories, images, details, names, dates and more that had been lost to time. We rapidly became an essential repository for the previously untold design history of Canada.
Building on this legacy, Nor is an entirely new organisation, raised up and built collectively by its community.
In the form we take today, we aim to be a living design museum, an interface between worlds, and a champion of a more challenging discourse.
For more on the process that brought us to here, dig into this PDF!