Designer. Researcher. Storyteller. Illustrator. Adventurer. TED Resident. Alumna. Explorer. Colombian. Simplifier. Former auto mechanic.
Above all, passionate about wild animals.



TED Senior Residency, 2019

TED Residency 2018

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

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Other Press & Media


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. In 2018 and 2019 she was named TED Resident for her work bridging design and wildlife conservation.

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 joined Polymath Ventures during their company development phase called SEED, 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, Art Center College of Design and Caltech University.

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 calls New York home, where she lives with her husband Danny, their dog, two spunky cats and many temporary foster animals that come through their doors every once in a while.

Cumulus Mumbai 2015: Best Paper

Our paper ‘Fostering Effective Models for Social Entrepreneurship in Design Education: Lessons Learned from the Safe Agua Case Study’ won best paper award at the conference ‘Cumulus Mumbai 2015 - in a Planet of our own with focus on water'. It as written by Mariana Amatullo, Penny Herscovitch and myself.

Download Paper from here



The Curious Company

I was previously part of this problem-solving collective, which brings innovative thinking to solve the most entrenched issues of our day. The goal of the collaborative is to bring solutions at the scale of the challenges, while working shoulder to shoulder with NGO partners to leverage their talents and leave them more capable of developing human-centered design interventions in the future.

The Curious Company's work with PSI/Tanzania featured in Devex