I went to a great book party last night for Emily Pilloton’s Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People. Emily, a visionary designer still in her late 20s, started Project H Design in January 2008, a nonprofit aimed at supporting product design initiatives “for humanity” (such as more vivid and engaging foster home facilities, playgrounds that double as math teaching laboratories etc.). In Design Revolution, she has gathered together 100 products from all over the world and profiled them. It is not only beautiful and charged with an undeniable spirit of outrage and imagination, but there is so much for the non-designer to learn.
In the introduction, Emily writes:
As a whole, today’s world of design (specifically product design) is severely deficient, crippled by consumerism and paralyzed by an unwillingness to financially and ethically prioritize social impact over the bottom line. We need nothing short of an industrial design revolution to shake us from our consumption-for-consumption’s-sake momentum. We must elevate ‘design for the greater good’ beyond charity and toward a socially sustainable and economically viable model taught in design schools and executed in design firms, one that defines the ways in which we prototype, relate to clients, distribute, measure, and understand. We must be designers of empowerment and rewrite our own job descriptions.
Amen. When you flip through her book, you really get a sense of the breadth and purpose that she’s talking about. Everything from sugarcane charcoal to montessori toys make sense for real people; they simply make our lives better and healthier. What a refreshing re-visioning of the design and consumer market place, one where conspicuous consumption is replaced by quality-of-life enhancing tools for the world over, not just “stuff and things” for the top 5%.
As if the book weren’t inspiring enough, Emily will be taking it to the streets next spring in her very own traveling museum of sorts–a biodiesel-powered truck and an airstream filled with many of the products she writes about. To meet her in a city near you, check out the schedule here.