Emily Pilloton is a designer, builder, educator, author, and founder of the nonprofit design agency Project H Design. Using architecture and design as a vehicle for social justice and public education, she works alongside youth ages 9-18 both in and out of school to bring to life public architecture projects that transform lives and communities. She is particularly invested in using design as a creative voice for young girls and students of color to build change in their own lives, and has mentored over 200 young girls ages 9-17 towards college and careers in STEM-related areas.

Her work within public education has catalyzed schools, teachers, leaders, and school districts to reinvent their pedagogy around creativity and design, connected to core subject content. She has built a farmers market with high school students, a playhouse with and for the daughters of abused mothers, a school library by the hands of its own middle school students, and microhomes for a transitional housing agency.

Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley and Oakland), Emily previously lived and worked in rural North Carolina, where she taught her high school design/build program called Studio H. During her time there, her students designed and built a farmers market in a town of 1500 people, which has since created 4 new businesses and 15 new jobs, and every student who participated in the project has gone on to a college or career related to architecture, design, engineering, or entrepreneurship. The farmers market project and the Studio H course is the subject of the full-length documentary If You Build It, directed and produced by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California Berkeley, and a Master of Fine Arts in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently a Visiting Associate Professor of Design at the University of California Davis, and 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. Her work is documented in the full-length film If You Build It.

Eloquent and passionate about her mission, she lectures on the importance of social action and building, the design revolution, design for empowerment, low-tech, hands-on built solutions. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, Forbes, Make Magazine, Fast Company, and more.

Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People
Emily’s book is a compendium and call-to-action for design for social impact. The book features over 100 contemporary design products, such as safer baby bottles, a waterless washing machine, low-cost prosthetics for landmine victims, and much more.

"Design Revolution opens the doors and shows you the power of what smart design can accomplish. The book proves that this is the direction we should all be going in, and Emily Pilloton is going to help get us there."
— Amy Novogratz, TED Prize Director

"Pilloton is a force of nature and Design Revolution is the perfect storm of inspiration, optimism, and ingenuity. This book should be on every designer’s shelf — no, in his or her hands."
— Valerie Casey, Global Practice Head, IDEO; founder, The Designers Accord


  • Founder and Executive Director, Project H Design
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Design, UC Davis
  • Co-Founder and High School Instructor, Studio H
  • Founder and Director, Camp H for girls
  • SEED (Social Environmental Economic Design) Award Winner, 2011 and 2015
  • Educational Entrepreneur of the Year, International Academy for Educational Entrepreneurship, 2014
  • IXDA Interaction Awards: Future Voice Award
  • Green Design Award: Advocacy and Community, New York School of Interior Design
  • Master of Design (Emerging Generation), Fast Company
  • INDEX: Award 2011 Design to Improve Life Finalist
  • Former Managing Editor,
  • Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow, 2009
  • Former Adjunct Professor of Designed Objects, the School of Art Institute of Chicago
  • Former Adjunct Professor of Design, Illinois Institute of Art
  • M.A., in Designed Objects, School of the Art institute of Chicago
  • B.A. in Architecture, University of California, Berkeley


These are topics that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest the speakers range and interests.

Emily tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Transforming Communities Through Design-based Education

Design — Environmental, Industrial, Educational

Gender / Women / Social Equity

Maker Education

Public Education


Design Thinking

  • Tell Them I Built This

    Transforming Schools, Communities, and Lives With Design-Based Education (TED Books)

    Tell Them I Built This dramatically shows how creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, and dirt-under-your-fingernails construction can radically transform both high school education and the local community where the students live. This is the story of Studio H, the design/build program that author Emily Pilloton and her partner Matthew Miller launched in rural North Carolina. Through the eyes of her students, Pilloton tells the story of the group’s hopes, failures, triumphs, and the power of design-driven education. According to Pilloton, we can dramatically revamp vocational education and build the change we wish to see in the world. And she should know: ultimately her students were given the key to the city by their mayor for initiating, designing, and building three public chicken coops and a 2000-square-foot public farmer’s market structure. In 'Tell Them I Built This', Pilloton offers tools for building change in communities, tips for turning a vision into meaningful work, and clear and inspiring directions on how to get it done.

    TED Conferences (December 6, 2012)

  • Design Revolution

    100 Products That Empower People

    In January of 2008, with a thousand dollars, a laptop and an outsized conviction that design can change the world, rising San Francisco-based product designer and activist Emily Pilloton launched Project H Design, a radical non-profit that supports, inspires and delivers life-improving humanitarian product design. "We need to go beyond 'going green' and to enlist a new generation of design activists," she wrote in an influential manifesto. "We need big hearts, bigger business sense and the bravery to take action now."

    Featuring more than 100 contemporary design products and systems — safer baby bottles, a high-tech waterless washing machine, low-cost prosthetics for landmine victims, Braille-based Lego-style building blocks for blind children, wheelchairs for rugged conditions, sugarcane charcoal, universal composting systems, DIY soccer balls — that are as fascinating as they are revolutionary, this exceptionally smart, friendly and well-designed volume makes the case for design as a tool to solve some of the world's biggest social problems in beautiful, sustainable and engaging ways — for global citizens in the developing world and in more developed economies alike. Particularly at a time when the weight of climate change, global poverty and population growth are impossible to ignore, Pilloton challenges designers to be changemakers instead of "stuff creators." Urgent and optimistic, a compendium and a call to action, Design Revolution is easily the most exciting design publication to come out this year.

    Metropolis Books; 1 edition (October 31, 2009)

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