Chairs, Corduroys, Cottages, & Cars: Exploring the Diversity of 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


In this lesson, students will explore the extensive design collection showcased on the People’s Design Award Web site. The People’s Design Award, which is hosted each year by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and sponsored by Target, gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs. Students will work in collaborative groups to create theme-based exhibitions highlighting examples from the Web site collection.

National Standards

Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts Level III. 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs,technical directions, procedures, and bus routes)
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process Level III. 5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)
Visual Arts: Artistic Expression & Communication
Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts
Level III. Benchmark 2. Knows how the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes can be used to enhance communication of experiences and ideas
Arts and Communication
Standard 3. Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Common Core State 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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

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 Writing

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will:
  • conduct Internet research
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • analyze, summarize, critique, and evaluate information from varied sources
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • create and present a theme-based exhibition using resources from the People’s Design Award Web site
  • demonstrate an understanding of the elements of the design process


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


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Software to create a slideshow (if possible) or drawing materials/poster board


Building Background
Exploring Collections The purpose of this activity is to allow students to explore, analyze, and critique varied aspects of a design exhibition.
1. As a class, browse Cooper-Hewitt's online exhibition entitled Looking Forward, Looking Back: Recent Acquisitions in 20th-and 21st-Century Design at Ask your students to think about how the objects are categorized, how the objects are described, and how they might have been selected to highlight the exhibition theme. 2. Collect an assortment of thirty to thirty-five everyday objects and place them on a table in the center of your classroom. Divide the class into five groups. Ask each group to create a list of potential categories for the objects. There are no right or wrong ways to categorize the objects; instead, the purpose is to actively engage the students’ critical thinking skills and creativity. Invite each group to share its categories with the entire class.
Steps for Learning
Create Your Own Collection The purpose of this activity is to help students closely observe, evaluate, and analyze the way objects are categorized to express a specific design theme. They will create their own theme-based collections.
1. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to complete the “Design Collection” handout (attached).2. Stage a class presentation of each group’s collection. 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 design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. - How effective was your presentation in highlighting the collection’s theme? -Rate how well you incorporated text and images into your design collection. -Rate the effectiveness of your group’s brainstorming in generating ideas. -Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. -Rate the effectiveness of your solution. -Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve. -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. -Rate your creativity.
-Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Build a New Collection
Have students conduct further research on the People’s Design Award Web site and add items to their theme-based collections or create new theme-based collections.
Activity Two: Exploring Collections Around the Globe
Have students conduct research on museum collections around the globe. Have them compare the different ways items are categorized. Ask the students to share what they learned with their classmates.

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