Emily Pilloton

Use “design thinking” to consider creative solutions to traditional challenges

Emily Pilloton
Project H
Studio H

2009, 2010 & 2011 Grant Recipient

Emily Pilloton, the Founder and Executive Director of Project H Design, was trained in architecture at UC Berkeley and product design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She started Project H to provide a conduit and catalyst for need-based product design that empowers individuals, communities and economies. Project H’s initiatives focus on improving environments, products and experiences by working with — instead of for — communities, to build creative capital and beautiful solutions from within. Project H’s core focus on K-12 public education has resulted in innovative design FOR education, re-designing the educational system, and design AS public education. Currently, Pilloton teaches Studio H, Project H’s high school design/build curriculum, in rural Bertie County, North Carolina.

Although many designers aren’t able to (or asked to) make such deep commitments to projects or to their clients, Pilloton’s approach and the group’s five-tenet process is an inspiration for all designers who want to work with and support nonprofits — 1) there is no design without (critical) action; 2) design WITH, not FOR; 3) document, share and measure; 4) start locally and scale globally; 5) design systems, not stuff.

In the Spring of 2010, Pilloton and Project H developed a traveling exhibition and lecture series based on her book Design Revolution. Rather than do a traditional book tour, Pilloton chose to put her energy into a more meaningful experience for audiences. The Design Revolution Road Show was conceived of to bring “product design that empowers” to 35 high schools and university design programs across the nation. Featuring an Airstream trailer and an exhibition of 40 humanitarian design solutions, the road show brought the evidence of and tools for design for social impact to the doorsteps of students. With the ultimate goal of enabling and empowering the next generation of creative problem-solvers to apply their skills to the world’s most pressing problems and improve life on a global scale, Pilloton conceived of a project — a Toolkit — for which she applied for and received an Ideas that Matter grant in 2010. The Toolkit was created for both design students and educators and outlines 13 values and corresponding strategies for not just how to design for the greater good, but how to produce GREAT design for the greater good.

More and more creative professionals and designers have begun to rethink their traditional consumer-based practices, prioritizing design as a tool for problem solving and social action.
Emily Pilloton