Watch Emily Pilloton’s “Teaching design for change” talk at TED
Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She’s teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.
As a young designer, Emily Pilloton was frustrated by the design world’s scarcity of meaningful work. Even environmentally conscious design was not enough. “At graduate school, people were starting to talk more about sustainability, but I felt it lacked a human factor,” she said. “Can we really call $5,000 bamboo coffee tables sustainable?” Convinced of the power of design to change the world, at age 26 Pilloton founded Project H to help develop effective design solutions for people who need it most.
Her book Design Revolution features products like the Hippo Water Roller, a rolling barrel with handle that eases water transport; AdSpecs, adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses; and Learning Landscapes, low-cost playgrounds that mesh math skills and physical activity.
In February 2009, Pilloton and her Project H partner Matthew Miller began working in Bertie County, North Carolina, the poorest and most rural county in the state, to develop a design-build curriculum for high-school kids, called Studio H. In August 2010 they began teaching their first class of 13 students. Read about their experiences in Design Mind.