Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller of Project H Design, with road dog Junebug
Some called us crazy. Others called us traveling trailer trash, visionaries, or just designers with A.D.D. who don't know how to sit still. But when my Project H partner-in-crime Matt Miller and I hit the road in a pink-stripe-clad Airstream trailer on February 1, leaving my home town of San Francisco for the 75-day, 36-stop Design Revolution Road Show, we set out with one thing in mind: to bring design that makes a difference to the doorsteps of average citizens and students. We wanted to inspire change, prove what is possible, and hopefully not kill each other along the way. Yes, the idea came about as a sort of renegade book tour for my then-recently-published Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, but amidst our shoestring planning, our ambitions got the best of us, transforming the tour into a roving exhibition of products, a lecture and workshop series, and general rabble-rousing escapade.
What follows is a conversation between me and Matt, now a full month after the road show's completion, after 25,000 people set foot in our Airstream, and roughly 9,500 miles covered. Our adventure was a hard one, trying and absolutely frustrating, but ultimately a ton of fun and one of the most enlightening experiences we could have embarked on as both designers and individuals. Note: Forgive our language, our swear words, and our rants: this conversation was a form of therapeutic closure, not a highly polished reflection.
E: Let's start with general stuff: what it was like being on the road, what we learned, what drove us nuts.
M: Well, we learned never to trust Google Maps, only the coffee-stained paper atlas. We learned that having a dog makes everything better, and hairier—that picking up Junebug in West Texas as an impulse buy on a Saturday afternoon was the best and craziest thing we've done in a while.
Junebug the border collie, who we spontaneously adopted in Harper, Texas.
E: Everyone needs a canine copilot. And we learned that living in a travel trailer out of three milk crates with your significant other/business partner for 75 days, without a bathroom or kitchen, is totally reality-TV-show-worthy.
M: Yeah, the Airstream is 27 feet long, and we had 6 of those 27 as living space. Thirty square feet of mattress and "his and hers closet space." There wasn't a lot of glamour to it.
E: People didn't realize that I would show up to lectures just having washed my hair in a sink.
M: Or that I wore the same shirt for three months.
E: Yeah, and I just rotated three of the same "Get Excited and Make Things" shirts. But when you have a milk crate as a closet, it's all we could do. We'd get asked "Oh, so where are you guys staying?" And I would say, "See where the pink stripe starts? On the rear end of the trailer? From there to the bumper. That's our apartment."
Eating Chinese food in between milk crates, on the floor of the Airstream.
M: I do sort of miss the RV Park life, though, from the super cheesy KOAs to the rathole campground in Mississippi which was nothing more than 2 acres of clay and mud. My favorite hands-down, though, was the spot outside of Auburn, Alabamathe 300-acre cow-farm with a bunch of random people living on the property, with makeshift gardens and a pack of roving dogs that looked like the talking ones from the movie UP.
KOA inspiration, top. Our cornhole-playing RV Park friends, bottom.
E: That place was great. When we showed up the first thing out of our new "neighbor's" mouth was "Y'all play cornhole?" Which is exactly what we proceeded to do for 3 days, next to an oil drum campfire and that guy's trailer with five huge flags on top.
M: The Confederate flag, the US flag, an Auburn University flag, Harley Davidson, and... what was the last one?
M: Of course...
RV Park outside Auburn, AL.
E: The RV Park life is kind of lovely in that it forces you to be outside so much. Aside from the lectures, we really spent three months outside, in fresh air. Especially once we got off the Interstates, being outside and seeing the country was pretty hard to beat.
Off the beaten path.
M: Absolutely, the most remarkable times that we had while driving were when we got off the interstate system. West Virginia, that stretch west of Austin where we picked up Junebug, those hills were just fucking beautiful. And then when we got lost and took that accidental detour through the farmland of Ohio, we just had to get the hell off of the Interstate.
My view from the passenger seat.
E: I think there were two big things, logistically, that were the hardest for me on the road. I had my Sprint Broadband dongle which worked only sporadically, and had to personally organize and manage each of our 35 stops, not to mention 20 other Project H projects, the accounting, the publicity, the documentation, and more, and my "office" was essentially the passenger seat of the truck. Our "off days" were spent driving 10 hours to our next stop. Trying to run a nonprofit from a truck is not easy. Other than that, the hardest day-to-day challenge was finding good food!!
So many choices, so little healthy food.
M: Yeah, I tried to go vegetarian, which didn't really work. Well, it worked until we got to Bertie County in North Carolina (our second home for Project H), and all we wanted was Bunn's Barbecue. But other than that we were pretty beholden to the Subway Veggie Delight as our only semi-healthy option on the road. We did figure out though, that crushed Doritos are a great meat substitute.
E: Doritos are the new tempeh?
M: Exactly. And we also got really good at knowing which truck stops had the best coffee.
Design Revolution Toolkit: a primer on community-based design projects.
E: Okay so clearly the road trip part of this was an adventure in and of itself. Let's talk about the design part of it, though, I mean essentially we were like a concert tour a design carnival in a lot of ways all we were missing was a monkey and some fire. But there was so much that we saw and learned about the way both the general public and the design community views humanitarian efforts. We embarked on this crazy adventure to be advocates for design as a process for addressing social problems not just by design students and professionals, but for the general public. And that's really what the Design Revolution Toolkit was for right? To get EVERYONE thinking about design and to come up with grassroots solutions that are beautiful and appropriate and that get people excited. That was the intention, the "romance." The day-to-day, though, was fairly methodical. We lectured together, you popped up the exhibition... We got pretty good at setting up shop.
Milk crates in storage/travel mode, and our "apartment" in back.
M: Definitely. By the end, we had it down. Aside from the schools that really didn't understand just how big this Airstream was, and tried to fit us into two parking spots. I was like, "uh, we need eight." On the upside, though, I have no fear of taking that thing virtually anywhere now. I can squeeze that bad boy into any spot.
E: Yeah you can turn that thing on a dime. But as far as what we wanted in terms of a response from people, for me, I wanted to see people come at it a sort of critical optimism. I wanted to hear the "hmmms" and "what ifs."
Stanford students critiquing products.
M: Like at Stanford... those students were SO wonderfully critical and brilliant, it was almost annoying. Plus, at Stanford we'd turn around and go, "Oh, there's David Kelley walking through the courtyard... and Bill Moggridge is headed this way." I mean JESUS. But yeah, it was about 5% of all visitors that saw something in a different way, and really brought to light something we hadn't seen before, or a critique we hadn't considered.
E: But that's exactly what we wantedfor people to bring on the critique. Because we did not want to present these products as perfect, but as a benchmark, and to ask people how we might all work creatively to further the work. We were looking for the "this is a great solution, but how could we make it even better?"
M: Exactly. But I think there was a significant difference between our general public Main Street stops and stops at design schools, though.
One of our "Main Street" stops, Savannah, GA.
E: From the general public, the one thing that rings in my ears is the use of the word "invention" instead of "design. People would walk through the trailer and go "these are cool inventions." Which I suppose is fine. But the extreme cases were fascinating, and totally weird sometimes, when people would seek us out, with "inventions" that they had been protecting for, like, decades and were afraid to talk about for fear that someone might steal their genius idea. That one guy had to go home and consult with his wife before he would tell us about his "sound waves into energy" idea, remember?!
M: Well the notion of the "next million dollar idea" is so antiquated, but still very much alive as a certain kind of American Dream. I hate to say this, but we saw it a lot more in some of the poorer parts of the country we went to. Which I think on the one hand is kind of invigorating and hopeful that people still can conceptualize outside of the box and we're not all complete zombies to the TV and to pop culture. But, the type of "invention" that really bothered me is the sort of "as-seen-on-TV" gizmos that are conceived of as get-rich-quick schemes, not as solutions to real problems (well, maybe how to zap a fly without leaving your sofa, but not real problems like education and health).
The Airstream in Millennium Park, Chicago (our version of Where's Waldo...).
E: The best example of this is the guy from Millennium Park in Chicago, who would be SO angry with me right now for telling his "genius idea" to the world. But he heard our interview on Chicago Public Radio, and literally an hour later, showed up at the trailer with his bag of tricks. He had his "machine that could make deaf people hear," which I thought had promise, but was essentially an old walkman with some duck-taped headphones, and his "anti-gravity motorcycle wheel" which was a rim with a black plastic piece attached to it, hidden in a tightly zipped bag that he had been keeping in a bank safe for ten years, for fear of idea-theft. I said to him "The ideas sound interesting, how do they work? Do they work? Have you tested them?" and all he could say was "I haven't tested them, but I know they will work." And of course after the back-and-forth of me wanting to try to understand if these things were at all viable, he accused me of wanting to poach his invention, screamed in my face, and stormed off.
Downtown Charlottesville, VA.
M: That guy was definitely "out there," mentally I mean. But yes, this type of "invention" was prevalent, and we did attract that type. People came out and it was just a spark, this idea, but then that's it. On one hand you have to give that guy credit for coming out, but he was looking for an investora payout. He saw us as a clearinghouse to bring his invention to market.
E: And that's the bottom line. These "cowboy inventors" who came out to talk to us with their bags of tricks were not doing this for the social value, or to improve someone's life, or even because they recognized a need. It was about the money. I felt like it diluted a lot of the work in the trailer that we know took years and years of work, sweat, blood, and prototyping and testing and re-testing and tweaking.
M: The real problem is, this is not the general public's fault. If anything, it's the fault of design that we haven't made our work relevant enough where the general public sees it as really valuable in addressing problems. It's still either design as fancy stuff, or invention as get-rich-quick. People don't look to design as a process for solving problems.
Testing out the Adaptive Eyecare glasses.
M: Absolutely. But I think overall, people did see the value in the exhibition. They understood there was something there, and that it represented a new, fresh way of doing things.
E: Oh, definitely. I don't think we ever had to really "sell it" as worthwhile. After going through the trailer, visitors absolutely understood that this was NOT about the shiny fancy objects, but that these were products that improved life. And that was great, to be able to present a group of designs that I think collectively really do make the case that design has power. It's undeniable. Even for people who approached the trailer with total confusion, I think left with a sense of it. My favorite was the guy who asked what was going on, and I said, "Oh, it's an exhibition of products." To which he said, "You mean like women's products? Like salon products? It's pink... like Mary Kay or something?"
M: Ha!! I guess I can't blame him for that. And you wonder why it took me a month to warm up to putting a pink stripe on my Airstream.
E: It's bold!
M: My freshly polished, shiny Airstream, looking like a Mary Kay car or Susan G. Komen-mobile. Design for the Cure.
E: Actually, that's genius.
M: Easy, now...
Testing out the Whirlwind Wheelchair.
E: But even that guy came out of the trailer nodding and with a smile on his face. You know what my absolute favorite thing about the general public stops was though, was the parents who brought their children to see the exhibition. Listening to the children try to explain the products to their parents, or even just picking them up and trying to figure out what they were, was remarkable. That one girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, picked up the Adaptive Eyecare liquid-filled glasses and said to her mom, "And then you squeeze this water into your eye, and it makes you see better!" It was magical. I wish I could see through a 7-year-old's eyes. That's where design becomes very real for me. When you can physically see the spark.
So many 6th graders at our lecture in Raleigh, NC. Bottom: Kids tinkering with the One Laptop Per Child.
M: Don't get all sappy.
E: Sorry. But yeah, the young kids were the best visitors, especially when they weren't spilling pickle juice like that one boy.
Rockin' the Project H sticker.
M: The last thing I'll say about the general public's response is that much of it was the same response, over and over again, to the point of predictably.
E: I've made this analogy before, but it's like the guy who weeds through the submissions for the New Yorker captions. He said that it's actually not hard to choose the winning caption for the previous week's "give this comic a caption" challenge, because 95% of the submissions are all the same joke. There are only a handful of people who really come up with something unique, from a different point of view. I think we had a similar 5% rate when it came to really great feedback, comments, and ideas.
M: But that 5% was pretty greatsurprising and really fascinating. Ok, so now let's talk about the schoolssome of them were colleges, some high school. One was a K-12 school. Did you have a favorite age group?
A high school student reads more about the products.
E: I loved the high schools because it was a totally different conversation. We would ask, "What does the word design mean?" And usually their first reference is the iPod or Gucci or fashion design. But by the end of the day, I mean, they really got it. They played with the stuff, they asked a ton of questions, and particularly for juniors and seniors that are maybe just starting to think about what they're going to do with their lives... I think if nothing else, it sparked something, a new thought.
High school students in Bertie County, NC (our future Studio H students!)
M: And particularly since we are soon to be high school teachers in Bertie County, North Carolina, it was great to see that designnot just the product but the perspective was of interest to these teenagers.
E: Design can do that in a way that not everything can. It's relatable and tactile and meant to be experienced.
M: But the biggest issue with high school kids is that they don't hold anything back, and have so much energy, and they just tear shit up. We went to some rough inner-city schools, two of which were design-focused charter schools.
E: Definitely. I remember one student in one of the tougher schools that said, "This is really cool. This is awesome, and I'm not even high on anything."
Checkin' out products at Redwood High School, my alma mater in the Bay Area.
M: That was amazing. And that kid really enjoyed the Whirlwind Wheelchair, popping wheelies and racing like all day long. The other high school student I remember is the girl who asked me about the NYC Condom Dispenser. She loved it, not from a design perspective, but because she saw that it was useful. She said, "We really need one of these in the school." That's a bold statement, but it was great that she connected a need, something personal and urgent, to the products.
Demonstrating the Solio at Design High School in LA.
E: Pretty different from what we saw at most of the design schoolsuniversities and colleges, right?
M: Absolutely. Even though I've taught design and architecture at a college level and I love it, it definitely comes with a different set of issues. College design students are super idealistic but also tend to be a little jaded. They have accepted certain things about what design is and should be, and are reticent to challenge authority, to ask hard questions beyond what is assigned to them in studio. There's definitely a design ego, a self-preservation, even in college, where I think students are afraid to step outside this academic silo that is safe and supported. Not that it's necessarily their fault, but we did notice that.
Our former intern, Jince, an industrial design student at University of Cincinnati.
E: But, I think that was where the real opportunity wasto inject this as a provocation at a really key moment in young designers' careers. Overall, I was so humbled at the enthusiasm of so many young designers around using design for goodit's like it's in their blood, in a way it wasn't when I was in school. I mean think of Jince, our former intern, or the Syracuse students who made t-shirts and put out balloons and flamingos for our arrival! The excitement was like a parade.
Syracuse students, with specially made road show T-shirts, flamingos, and balloons.
M: Totally. For the most part, the interest is already there, and it is just a matter of pushing it into action.
E: Yeah, a lot of students would come and say, "This is great, I'm into this social design 'thing'." I really wanted to push students to not think of this as a "thing," but a design approach that is undeniablethat yes, we were showcasing stuff, but everything in the trailer had a bigger purpose or a system behind it. The product wasn't the be-all-end-all, but a vehicle to achieve something that improved living conditions for someone. The students who DID get that were amazing, and we did see a few wonderful projects. In general though, I would have liked to seen more "balls" in the social design work we saw from students. So much of it was conceptual and pretty disconnected from a real client or person who really needed it, which to me makes it just as bad as the flourishy renderings of useless housewares.
M: Right. The intent was there, but the execution to go out in the world, be uncomfortable, build things and test them, and continue to improve them until they work for a community you don't' know much about, wasn't there very often. There an obvious disconnect between designing a half-assed homeless cart shelter and calling it "humanitarian," which is the last thing any homeless man needs, and actually going and working at a shelter. Just simply volunteering at a shelter. And not doing it as a "designer there to fix things," but just as a citizen.
Student project looking at homelessness in Detroit.
E: We did see that in a couple cases. I'm thinking of the studio at CCS in Detroit where one student had spent one day every week for the whole semester working in a homeless shelter, getting cursed at and yelled at, but all the while building experiences towards this fantastic project, the winter coat/bed, which she had prototyped, and tried, and literally stitched and re-stitched with the individuals in this shelter (once they stopped swearing at her). It was amazing. She had serious chutzpah, and it showed. She wasn't designing for an demographic, but for people she had gotten to know.
M: The design discipline demands a rigor and a process that really no other discipline demands, and in projects like hers, you see it. Not just the rigor but the relevance and the honesty that went into that process. You could see the hours she put in to get as far as she did versus another project about scavenging wood for homeless housing where the student just went down to Lowe's and bought 2x4's. That's horseshit. And it's not socially responsible, or socially responsive design.
E: But really this isn't about student shortcomings - it's bigger than that. I wonder how much of it has to do with design educators not knowing how to teach this type of design? We seemed to be educating educators as much as trying to inspiring students on the road, don't you think?
M: Absolutely. And you can't fault students for that. We're all feeling our way through this. The educators have a responsibility as well.
Lecturing at the Academy of Art, San Francisco.
E: True. I'm thinking in particular of the industrial design instructor who emailed me a week after we were at his school saying, "All of my students are disenchanted now. They don't want to work on the project I gave them. You think you're inspiring these students but really you're just depressing them because they don't get to do this kind of work." And my response was, "Well why can't they get to do this kind of work? Maybe they're disenchanted because the project you assigned is totally irrelevant? And maybe this is your opportunity to change it, to make it something that these students give a shit about." And he eventually did, and the students came to class and worked hard because they believed in it again. I consider that one a small but significant triumph. Remind me to email that guy.
M: It definitely makes you wonder if this type of design, "design for empowerment" is the blind leading the blind in design education. We haven't gotten far enough to know how to teach it wellI mean how do you teach citizenship and resourcefulness and bravery to work in totally unscripted and scary ways with clients like 5-year old foster children and half-crazy homeless individuals? My point though is that you CAN teach a rigorous honest process. What I want to avoid is designing fantasy.
E: Like all the schools that haven't changed since the 70's and are still drawing swooping concept cars with Prismacolors. Fantasy. And SO outdatedI'm sorry, what year is this? Stop drawing blobby cars and look at transportation of resources and people as a systemic problem. If you have to design a car, build one that gets 300 miles a gallon, not one that parallel parks for you or lets you rewind and record radio programming with a cool glowing interface.
M: It's just like sitting in architecture school and designing the next skyscraper. It's outdated. It's fantasy. And it's a misallocation of resources and potential talent, honestly.
E: My favorite was the critique we sat in, looking at concepts for the "next generation of external hard drive." Blobjects, beautifully rendered, and your first comment was "Why the fuck do I care?" which was SO harsh, but pretty dead-on. I found myself apologizing for your F-bombs a lot, but it was appropriate. How can you really critique that? It's beautiful. So what? People LOVE stuff, and love objects, but aesthetics and form-making can only be a tool, one of many, not the end goal.
Aaah, studio space.
M: We said this over and over again when asked about the role of aesthetics. You can use aesthetics to engage people for a specific purpose, like the HomeHero fire extinguisher which is beautiful so that you put it on your counter and have it handy when you need it. But objects that are defined only by their aesthetics are just glorified sculpture.
E: Absolutely. We had a few pleasant surprise schools, though, the sort of underdog schools we knew nothing about but ended up being our favorites.
M: Like University of Lousiana in Lafayette. Those kids worked so hard and they were just so down to earth and really earnest in their focus. There were a handful of students there, and in a couple other schools, who I just wanted to hug and say, "You are going to kick some ass. Go do it."
E: And they were some of the most "aware" students, who not only knew what was going on in their community, but were engaged in it.
The whole ID department at University of Louisiana.
M: That was one pleasant surprise for sure. That the smaller design schools, the non-"destination schools" that pull students from all over the world, are actually much more attuned to social design because they're more local. At UL, most of those students are from Louisiana. There's a pride and an understanding and an identity that yields better design, I think.
E: Which comes back to our belief that humanitarian design isn't about worlds away, but places we understand. The role of place and context is too often overlooked, particularly in industrial design which has always been driven by the universal and by mass production.
M: One other common thread to some of the exceptional schools was a transdisciplinary approachsome schools had really tried hard to blow out the silo walls and work with other design disciplines, and other academic disciplines and partners and organizations. That's when it really works. Ultimately we can't do this ourselves.
E: Our friend Peter Nicholson from Foresight Design Initiative in Chicago, who we ran into at Oberlin, put this perfectly. He said we need more "multi-lingual" designers.
M: Exactly. Ultimately we can't do alone. We've become so segregated and specialized, and almost totally aesthetic. There's no integration of the technology involved, the manufacturing impact, the business case, the society, the budget, who's dealing with the waste in 10 years, and the list goes on.
Studio space at Virginia Tech.
E: This is the blessing and the curse of studio culture, though. Studio is all about all-nighters at your desk, when really design education might be better off without that "safe space," where you're forced to design outside of design.
M: That would be amazing. But here is where the humanitarian, socially-based design actually has its real power: it creates better designersdesigners who know how to work under severe constraints and make things work in the real world, not for a studio critique.
E: Hmm, that's an interesting perspective. That we shouldn't design for the "greater good" because it's happy and nice and charitable, but because it actually develops more well-rounded and effective designers?
M: It absolutely does. Having to make a water filter for 50 cents, as opposed to a concept car that has no budget, that takes real skill. Or a concept for a skyscraper in architecture school, the imaginary museum of whatever, versus dealing with affordable public housing where you have no resources and no budget. That takes real invention and design... fortitude.
E: And I love the idea that the best design comes out of having your hands tied, and also in an application beyond design. Design for design's sake is so limiting, but when you combine design with say, education, or health, is where the power of design really becomes palpable. And this is why we gave students the advice to "Go work for Amtrak, or double major." Because it's only in combination with something else that design becomes really socially relevant.
Stickers for everyone!
M: Exactly. This is where I both love and hate our "design can change the world" stickers that we gave out. Because design alone will not change the world.
E: Well, there's a huge invisible asterisk on that sticker. It's "design can change the world... if you listen and work beyond your comfort zone and build and get dirty and don't get hypnotized by meaningless aesthetics."
M: We learned a lot as Project H, too, from that invisible asterisk and how we as Project H might change the way we approach this work, right?
E: Oh my gosh, SO much. The one thing I learned personally is the importance of being a practitioner again, now that this is all over. More project and less press, please!! There is a real value to sitting still and doing pervasive work in one place for the long haul. I do realize the irony of that as we're talking about our 36-school tour in 75 days, so clearly we're not the best examples of sitting still.
Matt as semi-convincing advocate (and unibomber lookalike).
M: But the road show was about advocacy, and that is only half of what Project H does. We are practitioners. And to be honest, I'm sick of being the preacher for this work. I want to do the work, dammit, and I want to do it well.
E: Absolutely. People would ask us "How often do you do this roadshow? Yearly?" And while I loved their enthusiasm, I couldn't answer "This is a one-time thing!" fast enough, because all along the way, I was thinking about how important it is for us to get back to work. It's a tough balance between the advocacy and the practice. I started Project H because I am a designer and builder who personally wants to do design work that matters, but the advocacy is what builds the greater community and support for this work, for all of us, and ultimately makes it more widely meaningful.
M: But now that the roadshow is over, we get to be practitioners again, in a place that has really become a second home to us.
Bertie County, North Carolina, our new home base.
E: Yep! I mean we're sitting here in Bertie County right now, the poorest county in the North Carolina, where we are 3 months away from launching our 5-year program with the public school district here. We'll be teaching a one-year high school design/build curriculum called Studio H, integrating core subject learning through a design process, building one big community project per year, and offering both college credit and summer jobs to high school juniors. Who knew I would one day be a high school teacher?
Building frames for computer labs at Bertie High School.
M: I know, right? I can't wait to teach teenagers how to actually build something and not a birdhouse for their mom, but something for their community that they designed. Having worked here in Bertie for a year and a half, it's the perfect culmination to the road show and also to a lot of the Design For Education projects we've already worked on. But also I think it's a great example of how design is best when it's local. And the most socially relevant when it's small and responsive.
Completed computer labs built by Project H at Bertie High School, NC.
E: It brings up the paradox of humanitarian work. When we were in Wilmington, Ohio with Mark and Taylor from Energize Clinton County, I loved what Mark said. He questioned whether you can do humanitarian work on a global scale, because at that scale, you lose the ability to see people as human beings, with individual needs and desires. In Bertie County, we painted a big blue dot graphic campaign on the side of that building downtown, and the whole county was talking about it for a month.
M: That is really the lesson of the road show, I think. We hit the road and did this in person because it was face-to-face, grassroots, and that is where the best design happens, I think.
E: In places where you know people, and where you aren't designing to a statistic.
Painting our Connect Bertie dot downtown (graphic campaign to bring broadband internet to the rural county).
E: Ultimately it would be great if we could scale some of these solutions beyond Bertie. I'd love to see a Studio H curriculum in hundreds of other rural districts. But the point is that what will hopefully make it so effective is that it started as something responsive and nimble and personal, with our thirteen students.
M: And being on the road proved that point.
E: The small stories, the Main Streets, the classrooms, the kids, even the crazy "inventors" we met along the way - that is where design has to live.
Airstream reflections at dawn.
We would like to thank, via virtual bearhug, all of our sponsors, supporters, donors, family members, Subway sandwich servers, friends old and new, and random passersby who made this adventure possible. Specifically, our gratitude goes out to all the students who believe that design has power, and to our funders (the Adobe Foundation,Sappi's Ideas That Matter grant program) who gave us the resources to prove the point.
To read full recaps of all 36 stops on our tour, visit the Design Revolution Road Show website, or view our thousands of snapshots on our Flickr feed. As for us, we're back to work in Bertie County. Drop us a line if you'd like to drop by Studio H in the fall as a visiting lecturer for our high school students (or just for some great barbecue and front porch conversation).
Emily Pilloton is the founder of the nonprofit Project H Design. Since 2008, she has run Project H and worked with young people ages 9-18 to bring the power of design and building to schools and communities. Emily is trained as an architect with degrees from UC Berkeley and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but found that she is physically incapable of working in an office or for a boss and much prefers the creative chaos of a public school classroom filled with tools and welding equipment. Project H Design was born out of the hope that authentic, on-the-ground, face-to-face work with young people could transform what it means to be a design professional, what it means to learn in the 21st century, and what it means to get dirty and physically build solutions for your community.
Specifically, Emily launched 2 Project H programs: Studio H, an in-school design/build curriculum, and Camp H, an after-school and summer building camp for young girls ages 9-13. Exploring the intersection of science, art, math, and community development, Emily has led Project H youth in the design and construction of an award-winning 2,000-square-foot farmers market structure, chicken coops, playgrounds, their own school library, microhomes for the homeless, laser-etched skateboards, and welded steel public sculpture.
Emily believes that by giving youth, particularly girls and students of color, the skills to design and build their wildest ideas, we can support the next generation of creative, confident changemakers. Her ideas and work have made their way to the TED Stage, The Colbert Report, the New York Times, and more. Her work is the subject of the full-length documentary If You Build It. She is the author of two books, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, and Tell Them I Built This: Transforming Schools, Communities, and Lives with Design-Based Education. Emily is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Design at UC Davis.