TedTalk – Emily Pilloton: Teaching Design for Change

emily pillotin b

Title and Link: Teaching Design for Change

Presenter: Emily Pilloton is the found of Project H, a non-profit design consultancy that uses the power of creativity and hands-on building to engage with communities and create real positive change. She is also the editor of Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People.

Project H has 6 main principles that I think are very important to consider in my future work (or that of any designer in the current century

  • Design through action
  • Design with, not for
  • Design systems, not stuff
  • Document, share and measure
  • Start locally, and scale globally
  • Build

Key Points

  • Bertie County, NC  is a prime example of the demise of rural America
    • Biggest problem – No shared collective investment in the future of the community
    • Poorest county in the state (1 in 3 kids live in poverty), more empty buildings than full ones, etc.
  • Dr. Z – new Superintendent of the school board
    • Invited Project H design in – for their specific design process
  • There is a vacuum of creative capital in rural places
    • Originally using design in the education system but it turned out the whole community could use it for their development
    • Three basic principles
      • Design for education
        • How: Build
        • What: Spaces, Materials, Experiences
        • Ex. Lets kids play outside on the playground but still learn all of their basic skills while still being a kid
      • Redesigning Education
        • How: Design systems, not stuff
        • What: Services, Markets, Strategies
        • Ex. only 10% of homes now have internet access, but worked on a huge community-wide initiative to fund new computers
      • Design as Education
        • How: Design with, not for
        • What: Community-focused design curricula and shop class renaissance
        • Making shop class more critical and creative and do projects that actually help out in the community (1 year course – 3 hours/day and then get a job as a builder over the summer – ethnographic research, visualization, building/prototyping)

Final Thoughts – After reading her book I was excited about the idea of empowering people.  I looked into her design studio, but just looking at a website gives you a very vague idea of how people actually work and what they actually accomplish. This talk gave me a much more clear idea of her dedication and commitment to promoting design and education in communities.


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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