"If I say to you, “let’s design a new kind of phone,” you might think it’s going to be difficult, but you’ll know where to start and you’ll be ready with an approach to the work. If I say “let’s improve conditions for people in Bertie County, the poorest county in North Carolina.” in 2013, you’re likely to say, “You’ve got the wrong person. I’m a designer, not a community development worker. I don’t have the approach or methods to do that kind of work.”
"We face a set of genuine problems... crises in our institutions and decision-making that are absolutely fundamental to the way that we live. I would like to think that our work can begin to address that."
this year's jury awarded its inaugural "future voice" award to studio h: bertie county, headed up by emily pilloton and matthew miller, with active participation from students of bertie high school. this short film shows how interaction designers can create work that not only delivers far beyond industry expectations, but, ultimately, can aspire to "reconfigure the major systems around us."
with commentary from marc rettig, liz danzico, ben pieratt, dan hill, robert fabricant, and footage from emily pilloton's talk at TED 2010, as well as excerpts from an upcoming documentary about studio h that features both emily and matthew miller. special thanks to o’malley creadon productions (christine, patrick and nick at vimeo.com/ocpmedia) for use of their footage from their feature length documentary about studio h.
as jury chair, marc rettig presented the award on stage on january 29, 2013, in toronto, explaining the decision as "Project H Bertie County used design to address issues of humanity, habitat, health, and happiness – in the poorest county in North Carolina."
"We are recognizing this work with the Future Voice Award because it is a pure example of a shift in the practice of design that is already happening in different forms all over the world. It represents an invitation to us all to consider a future in which design takes a different role in society and in communities than is typical today."
Through the deliberately designed interactions between students and teachers, students and community, as well as students with materials, "Project H, shows us that there can actually be a designed approach to such challenges as lifting the self-image, sense of empowerment, and actual knowledge and abilities of a whole community, accustomed over generations to being spectators to their own decline, sidelined from any conversation about their own future... It is a work of intentional design to extend the impact of the project beyond the walls of the classroom deeper in to Bertie County."
"Project H in Bertie County represents a way we could choose to steer our approach to the work of design. It offers a way of working that is demonstrably effective for situations and goals that most of us are currently shy about tackling. That is, situations where the outcome is not made of products, systems, or institutional services. In this work, the outcome is made of people, their sense of themselves and their place in the world, and the conversations they have with each other, their community, and the world."