The documentary IF YOU BUILD IT spends a year in the life of one of America’s most innovative classrooms. Designer/activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller of Project H Design, together with their high school students, unleash the power of humanitarian design to help their struggling community in rural North Carolina.
Emily Pilloton launched Project H Design with the desire to teach design for social change. In their own words “Project H uses the power of creativity, design, and hands-on building to amplify the raw brilliance of youth, transform communities, and improve K-12 public education from within.” I admire Pillonton’s optimism and conviction that through design we really can build the change we want to see in the world.
Pillonton has also written two books. Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People, features 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, and more. Products that are that are as fascinating as they are revolutionary. Avid book review blogger Maria Popova says it “reads like a manual, thinks like a manifesto, and feels like a powerful jolt of fire-in-your-belly inspiration.”
Her second book—Tell Them I Built This: Transforming Schools, Communities, and Lives With Design-Based Education (TED Books)—tells the story of Project H through the eyes of her students. It shows how creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, and dirt-under-your-fingernails construction can radically transform both high school education and the local community. It is a way to connect in-school learning to out-of-school possibility.