Design for Wildlife

About Mariana

Wildlife Conservation is finally where I found my home.


A Note from Mariana

I am a designer. The kind who makes things that look good. But also the kind who was trained to listen to people, design for their needs, and co-create solutions with the people who will use the products and services we create.

My first design challenge took me to Guatemala in 2010, at a time when Lake Atitlán bloomed with toxic cyanobacteria. It was the first time I stood as a bridge between the scientists treating the problem and the communities who lived in the region and wanted to help, but didn’t know how. They found themselves working toward a common goal, but their competing approaches often stunted the overall progress.

After Guatemala, I spent many years helping organizations working in humanitarian aid and poverty alleviation to better understand the people they serve.

Today I do much the same, working to bridge wildlife conservation leaders and the people they need to reach. Organizations who embrace design, whether they are non profits or even large multinational companies, benefit greatly from design because it helps them understand their users. In wildlife conservation, the users can be farmers struggling with elephants eating their crops or the general public that doesn’t have constant interaction with the wild and can be confused by which actions need to be taken to protect our planet.

I am here to support the amazing work that wildlife conservation organizations are already doing, and augment it by supporting the relationships they have with the public and the communities on the ground who coexist with wildlife on a daily basis.

Now today, and always, I will be a designer for wild animals.



TED, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Lash / TED

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Lash / TED

Filmed at TED HQ December 2018, live on
”Why Animals Need Design”


Awards & Recognitions

TED Residency, 2018 

TED Residency, 2019

Smithsonian / Cooper-Hewitt Museum Exhibit, 2018

Core77 Best Service Design Award, 2016 Fellowship, 2013

The Tech Awards: Young Innovator Award, 2012 

NCIIA Sustainable Vision Grant / Venture Well, 2012

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Exhibit, 2012

Watch TEDx Talk: How design can save your life


Filmed at Caltech University for a TEDx event. 2013




Mariana Prieto is a designer for wild animals. Through her work, she supports wildlife conservation organizations by bringing fresh approaches to old problems through design thinking. Her ability to understand what people want and how design can affect human behavior makes her especially equipped to handle human-wildlife conflict, donor fatigue and other human-related challenges. She is currently a TED Resident, working out of TED HQ in New York.

Previous to her work in wildlife conservation, Mariana was Design Innovation Lead for the International Rescue Committee where she led innovation for the organization’s newest initiative, the Airbel Center. Airbel is tasked with designing and testing large-scale solutions for people affected by crisis, such as war and natural disasters. Mariana led teams working on innovative solutions for the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the redesign of the refugee resettlement process in the United States.

In 2013, she was named Global Design Fellow for where she worked on poverty alleviation projects such as reducing teen pregnancies in Zambia, building social enterprises for female farmers in India, supporting victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and working with The Rockefeller Foundation to write a book on the informal workforce in Africa and Asia.

She was a Fellow at Polymath Ventures, where she co-lead a team tasked to design companies meant to scale to over a billion dollars in Latin America. During her early career, Mariana worked on leading research and market viability on concepts aimed at improving the quality of life for people without access to running water in Latin America.  

Mariana graduated as a product designer from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and has taught at USC Marshall School of Business and been a guest lecturer at Berkeley Haas School of Business, Stanford University, Parsons School of Design and speaker at TEDxYouth@Caltech.

On the side, Mariana dabbles in illustration co-creating a graphic novel series about superheroes that protect wildlife with National Geographic Adventurer of the year, Shannon Galpin and her 13 year old daughter.

Even though she is constantly on the road, Mariana loves coming to her home in New York to her dog, two cats, many temporary foster animals and her very patient husband who loves them all.