At Autodesk University I had the pleaser of sitting down with Tim Prestero from Design That Matters (DtM). DtM is a member of the Lenovo ThinkRevolution program.


ThinkRevolution is a tiered customer engagement program. With ThinkRevolution, Lenovo provides tech to the people who are changing the world.

Lenovo ThinkRevolution Logo

Why is ThinkRevolution important to Lenovo? It provides a means to be involved in a worthwhile cause. It is also a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. Instead of talking about hardware and specs, they talk about what people are doing with their technology.

Tim Prestero, CEO of Design that Matters, chose Lenovo for two main reasons. First, non-profits do not have a lot of money. Before ThinkRevolution they built their own systems but rehabilitated most. Now with the ThinkRevolution program, they have access to top-of-the-line Lenovo technology. The second reason is that Tim has been using Lenovo technology since college. He has found them to be tough, well-built machines, that just work.

DtM does not work on time sensitive projects, but in Tim’s words why let the world’s problems linger? With the Lenovo workstations, they are now completing three prototypes in the time it used to take one.

ThinkRevolution and Design that Matters

How have Lenovo workstations improved their work? They use the ThinkPad P40 Yogas every day taking them with us to do field research and rapid prototyping. The computing power in a very portable laptop is perfect for handling CAD on the go.

DtM designs outcomes, not products. What does this mean? Tim starts with the outcome and works backward to design the product. They take big risks and need to get to the outcome quickly so they can move on if it is not going to work. They use the Lenovo ThinkStations to do the heavy lifting for complicated CAD assemblies and renderings.

What is Tim’s favorite feature about their Lenovo workstations? They did not before have the ability to create digital drawings in the office, therefore with the ThinkRevolution program they now have that capability built into their every-day computers.

“For us at Design that Matters sometimes the field means Bangladesh or the middle of the Sahara. The ThinkPad P40 Yoga combines all of the vital industrial designer’s needs: powerful computing for CAD and digital drawing capabilities, into a portable tool, freeing us to do work in the field.”

thinkpad p40 yoga

What challenges have the Lenovo workstation helped overcome? The ThinkPad P40 Yoga combines all of the vital industrial designer’s needs: powerful computing for CAD and digital drawing capabilities, into a portable tool, freeing them to do work in the field. The ThinkPad P40 Yoga enables them to actively design within the context that they are designing for.

Tim Prestero

It is not hard to find information on Tim Prestero. Google him and you’ll find his Ted talks, his very impressive LinkedIn profile, the Design that Matters website, and countless articles about the amazing work he and his team are doing.


Tim is an unbelievable speaker and extremely passionate about the work he is doing. In his own words, he’s also a recovering engineer.

Why Design that Matters?

While in the Peacecorp Tim built latrines in Africa and found it confusing and depressing. He felt lost in how he could really help.

He started in college in Environmental Science, trying to find a way to make the world a better place. Three years in he was turned in a new direction after creating a robot to find mines in the ocean. It costs 2-million to train a Navy Seal to hunt for mines while only $100,000 for the robot. He had a new vision.

Helping the world takes time,  it’s hard,  and unfortunately, people are lazy. We live in an era where we have the tools to do anything but unfortunately lack a sense of agency. We should be doing something that saves lives opposed to scheduling yoga sessions. In Tim’s travels, he has seen a lot of unnecessary hardship,  much of which is very preventable. He has seen many classes of problems, many where the effort to make change is modest. Tim’s example was being a big brother or big sister, something that takes very little of your time or effort but can have a huge impact on someone else’s life.

A sad fact… only 20% of medical equipment delivered in Africa is turned on. In addition, this equipment is First World designed assuming the user speaks English, is educated, and has access to disposable parts. These are the types of problems that Design that Matters was established to solve.

The Rewards

I asked Tim what his most rewarding moments have been. He talked about DtM’s phototherapy equipment which has served over 70,000 people and without it over 7000 would have died. That’s making a difference.



Tim also appreciates being able to spend time with his two boys, including their recent design and manufacturing project to produce Halloween costumes. He wants to teach them that if they have a problem, they will find a way to fix it.

Design that Matters

Founded in 2001 by a team of MIT students, Design that Matters (DtM), is a nonprofit design company that partners with social entrepreneurs to design products that address basic needs in developing countries. They are a non-profit that solves problems for and with the poor in developing countries.

design that matters

About Design that Matters

  • Serve underprivileged communities from Haiti to Mali to Vietnam
  • a nonprofit group committed to helping treat easily curable diseases like jaundice, hypothermia and pneumonia using simple yet ingeniously designed medical devices.
  • have pushed the limits of rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing to deliver products to people desperate for a better quality of life.
  • has created several prototypes resulting in groundbreaking newborn care with the mantra: Empathy can lead to better outcomes.
  • manage a collaborative design process through which hundreds of students and professional volunteers contribute to the design of new product and services for the poor in developing countries
  • received the National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement.

Currently, DtM is six full-time employees. They ramp up with the addition of volunteers, students, and interns when needed. They use Autodesk Fusion 360 and love using it on the Lenovo Yoga. “Powerful and portable”. With Fusion 360 Tim appreciates the embedded Version Control (“it is huge”) and how everything in one file.

As a non-profit they need to get work cheap,  hence the use of students and interns. They have significant industry partners, like Fisher price who is a big participant. Tim says it is easy to get corporate sponsorship with “good guilt


What about his African novel night time teaching tool the kinkajou? It turned into a big learning opportunity for Tim and DtM.

1 in 5 people in the world cannot read. In Africa, World Education has implemented a community model for learning. The teachers are a couple lessons ahead of the students and they learn in the evenings. One of the biggest problems is they use books printed in the USA which do not survive the climate they are subjected to in these African schools. They read the books by kerosene lanterns and practice on a chalkboard. Add it all up and it does not produce an ideal learning environment.

Microfilm is rated to last 150 years and thousands of pages will fit on one cassette.  By adapting toy plastic lens to replace glass lens (hello Fisher Price!) the costs were significantly reduced   Solar panels with motorcycle batteries mean the unit charged during the day and was ready for a night of learning.

The problem is no-one outside DtM saw an opportunity so it did not take off into other countries. The learned outcome is now DtM partners with someone up front. Someone who have established market in the area already.  

In Summary

Unfortunately, there was no way for me to capture the “full Tim effect” in this article. This guy is truly inspirational. I highly recommend watching his Ted talks or any public speaking engagement. Also, check out the DtM website to see if there is a way you can get involved.

Some might question Lenovo’s intentions with the ThinkRevolution program. However, Lenovo is brutally honest it is a marketing program to help distinguish Lenovo products from the competition…. AND help others change the world. If the other ThinkRevolutionists are like Design that Matters then the program is very well worth it.