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Hot 20 2009: Emily Pilloton, Founder of Project H Design

Photography by John Lee.

For Emily Pilloton, early success in the design world didn’t mean unveiling a $20,000 sofa or landing an architecture commission for the newest museum. Instead of falling in line as a disciple of high design, Pilloton has utilized her degrees in product design and architecture toward more humanitarian ends, from creating low-cost play structures that help schoolchildren in the Dominican Republic learn basic math, to working with homeless women in Los Angeles to design purses that open into hammocks. Her charitable organization—Project H Design—partners with schools, shelters and other groups around the world to use design to assist people in need. “When I’m presented with a problem, I want to address it through design,” says Pilloton.

Started in January 2008 from her Marin “home office” (her parents’ dining room), Project H Design now has nine worldwide chapters, an ever-expanding number of enthusiastic staff members and volunteers and a growing list of completed projects, from a computer lab redesign in rural North Carolina to the creation of kitchen tables for refugee families in the Bay Area.

Pilloton’s first book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People (Metropolis Books) is out this month and her atypical book tour, “The Design Revolution Road Show,” will kick off in Feburary, taking Pilloton across the country and back in an Airstream that she has decked out with more than 50 products from the book. She says, “ I want to show people firsthand the power of good design.”

Check out the other 2009 Hot 20.

For Emily Pilloton, early success in the design world didn’t mean unveiling a $20,000 sofa or landing an architecture commission for the newest museum. Instead of falling in line as a disciple of high design, Pilloton has utilized her degrees in product design and architecture toward more humanitarian ends, from creating low-cost play structures that help schoolchildren in the Dominican Republic learn basic math, to working with homeless women in Los Angeles to design purses that open into hammocks. Her charitable organization—Project H Design—partners with schools, shelters and other groups around the world to use design to assist people in need. “When I’m presented with a problem, I want to address it through design,” says Pilloton.

Started in January 2008 from her Marin “home office” (her parents’ dining room), Project H Design now has nine worldwide chapters, an ever-expanding number of enthusiastic staff members and volunteers and a growing list of completed projects, from a computer lab redesign in rural North Carolina to the creation of kitchen tables for refugee families in the Bay Area.

Pilloton’s first book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People (Metropolis Books) is out this month and her atypical book tour, “The Design Revolution Road Show,” will kick off in Feburary, taking Pilloton across the country and back in an Airstream that she has decked out with more than 50 products from the book. She says, “ I want to show people firsthand the power of good design.”

Check out the other 2009 Hot 20.