High-end/Low-end: Exploring Price & Value in Design

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 24, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One to two fifty-minute class periods


What is the role of price and value in design? Should good design be available to everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic level? How is the value of an object determined? In this lesson, students will compare high-end and low-end versions of everyday objects, and explore the role economics plays in design.

National Standards

Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Level IV. 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process Level IV. 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Visual Arts: Artistic Expression & Communication
Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts Level IV. Benchmark 1. Applies media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one’s intentions are carried out in artworks
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Students will:
  • analyze, summarize, critique, and evaluate an article on design
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • conduct Internet research
  • compare and contrast elements of design
  • create a class presentation highlighting their understanding of value and price in design


  • “Design Analysis” handout (attached)
  • Internet Web sites


  • Computer with Internet access


Building Background
Activity One: Responding to Design Criticism The purpose of this activity is to help students explore their opinions about the ways good design is judged.
1. Divide the class into small groups. Ask your students to read the International Herald Tribune article entitled “Taking the pulse of the people: Newest awards by popular vote” at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/15/style/15iht-design16.3160786.html?_r=0. Ask the students to answer the following questions: • "It diminishes design to say that it can mean anything, and that the 'best' can be selected with absolutely zero criteria," said one critic, who declined to be named. Do you agree or disagree with this critic’s opinion? • Do you agree or disagree with the self-policing of the submissions to the People’s Design Award? • Do you agree with the idea that since design is a part of everyday life, people tend to feel confident expressing their opinions about it? • What do you think the statement below means? “Just as a country's list of best-selling books can offer insights into its collective obsessions—whether diets or wealth, sex or depression—so, too, can its polls of popular designs.” • Do you agree or disagree with the statement below? "Americans have big consciences," said Paola Antonelli, curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. "Once confronted with this kind of socially relevant design, people will find it hard to revert to their standard idea of design—luxurious, out-of-the-ordinary objects." Activity Two: My Side/Your Side The purpose of this activity is to help students analyze different elements of the value of design. 1. Divide the class in half. Write the following statements on the board. • Why would I pay $200 for a dish when I can pay $5.99? Price has nothing to do with good design. I think good design should be for everyone. • I would pay a lot of money for a well-designed object. Good design is an essential part of high quality items. I think good design should be for people who have the good taste to appreciate it and the money to pay for it. Tell the students they are going to discuss these opposing statements. Ask half the students to take on the viewpoint expressed in the first statement, and half the students to take on the viewpoint expressed in the second statement. Pair the students so that the group contains students representing opposing views. Tell the students to engage in discussion for five minutes.
Lead a class discussion asking students to share their own viewpoints on the role that price and value play in design.
Steps for Learning
Activity One: Sneakers & Clothes: What Are We Paying For? The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity compare and contrast varied elements of price and design.
1. Ask your students to choose one of the following articles to read: • Article One: Stefan Marbury’s $14.98 Sneakers http://www2.oprah.com/tows/slide/200705/20070518/slide_20070518_350_401.jhtml  - search Stefan Marbury's sneakers. • Article Two: Sarah Jessica Parker’s Clothing Line http://www2.oprah.com/beauty/fashion/beauty_fashion_20070518_bit_201.jhtml  - search Sara Jessica Parker's clothing line. Invite the class to share their summaries of the articles, and discuss their responses to what they read. Activity Two: High-end & Low-end Design Analysis The purpose of this activity is for students to analyze differences in high-end and low-end designs. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the “Design Analysis” handout. 2. Have each group work together to complete the handout.
3. Stage a class presentation of each group’s work. Invite guests, if possible. Host a critique/discussion after the presentations are complete.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their work. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation in conveying your thoughts about the role of price and value in design. -Rate the effectiveness of your group’s brainstorming in choosing objects from the People’s Design Award Web site. -Rate your creativity. -Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Essay Writing
Have your students write a brief paragraph highlighting their understanding of the role of price and value in design. Invite students to share their paragraphs with each other to promote further discussion.

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