Project H Design is a Berkeley-based design education non-profit focused on developing leadership skills for youth through design-build courses. It was founded in 2008 by Emily Pilloton with the ambition to reconnect design with a social agenda. Pilloton had previously gained notoriety from her 2009 book Design Revolution, which profiled 100 products changing people’s lives.
In 2010, Project H relocated for two years to Bertie County, NC at the invitation of a local school superintendent who asked Pilloton and her then-partner Matt Miller to develop a design-build curriculum for high school students. The curriculum eventually took the name “Studio H,” now one of three programs run by Project H. The three programs feature a shared conviction: allowing students to connect ‘thinking’ with ‘making’ gives them lifelong skills that are transferrable in any field. Students develop an empowered self, learning to realize the projects which they envision.
Studio H is an in-school design/build class for 6th-12th grade students. The program was originally launched in Bertie County, NC and now runs out of the Realm Charter School in Berkeley, CA. The program is intended to both reconnect students with a sense of craft and to engage students directly in socially meaningful projects. Studio H’s program in Bertie County was eventually the subject of the award-winning documentary film If You Build It.
Girls Garage is an afterschool and summer program for girls aged 9-13 which focuses on design and building. The program aims to instill confidence in young women by providing them with the skills and tools to build whatever they can imagine.
Unprofessional Development is Project H’s most recent program. Its mission is to bring project-based learning into all classrooms. Unprofessional Development consists of workshops and hands-on learning experiences aimed at educators, which expose them to the pedagogical possibilities of design-build courses for youth.
We had a chance to speak with Emily and get her thoughts on how design can challenge inequality. In this two-part episode, Emily joins Eric, Emiliano and John Peterson of Public Architecture.