Class of Cards

By Carolyn Drake, August 6, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Design History

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Two sixty-minute class periods


This is an exploratory lesson ideal for familiarizing students with each other and with design. Students often come into an art class nervous about creating art or design. This project is a good way to get past that, as it is quick and straightforward. In this lesson, students will look at the work of Charles and Ray Eames, specifically their "House of Cards," a deck of notched cards covered with a simple black and white design on one side, and a repeating pattern on the other side. See the web sites below for a visual example. The cards can be joined together into any number of structures. Students will design their own card using repetition and color on one side, and symbolic images representing different aspects of themselves on the other. Once the cards are complete, students will present them and then assemble them into a tower, creating the “House of Cards.”

National Standards

Visual Arts
Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts
Benchmark 1. Applies media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one’s intentions are carried out in artworks
Knowledge/skill statements 1. Applies media with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one’s intentions are carried out in artworks 2. Applies techniques with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one’s intentions are carried out in artworks Benchmark 3. Understands how the communication of ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes one uses in various art forms Knowledge/skill statements 1. Understands how the communication of ideas relates to the media one uses in various art forms

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.

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 investigation.

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.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

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:
  • learn about the work of Charles and Ray Eames
  • learn about and use the elements and principles of design
  • develop speaking skills through informal presentation
  • connect their personal identity with the identity of the class



• cardstock cut into playing card size pieces (packages of blank cards this size are also available) • sketch paper • pencils • black pens (preferably microns) • colored pencils or markers • swatches of paper or textiles that show repeating patterns • Exacto knife and mat for cutting notches or scissors • optional: rulers, shape templates, compasses for experimenting with pattern


Elements and principles of design (see attached handout)


Day One: • Introduce the students to the history and work of the designers, Charles and Ray Eames (either make transparencies of the Internet information, project the Web sites using a digital projector, have the students conduct their own research, or pass out Xeroxes, etc.). Encourage a class discussion about the images of their work and different fields they worked in. • Once the students have a fair understanding of the work done by the Eames’, show students the images of the "House of Cards". Discuss the use of repetition in the “House of Cards” and point out the various patterns and everyday objects used on the back of the cards. • Handout the “Elements and Principles of Design” handout and encourage students to familiarize themselves with and use the vocabulary throughout the "House of Cards" project. • Now, pass around examples of interesting paper or textiles that demonstrate different elements and principles of design. Have students point out the elements they see and help them identify that these elements work together to create the interesting designs. This is meant to be a brief overview focusing on repetition, pattern, color, and geometric and organic shapes. • Introduce the "Class of Cards" project and pass out the attached “Class of Cards” handout. (You may want to create a sample card to show the students.) • Have students begin sketching ideas for side one of their card. Encourage them to create patterns using images of everyday objects, interesting shapes, and colors that interest them. • Once students have designed at least three different patterns, they should share them with a peer and choose one pattern to focus on. • By the end of class, students should have chosen the design and color scheme for one side of the card. Some students may have begun rendering the final card.
Day Two: • Before students dive into their final renderings, review the requirements for the second side of the card (part 2 of the attached “Class of Cards” handout) so they will have this in mind as they are working on side one. • Once side one is complete, students should begin designing the 4 logos that will be displayed on side two. • Once the four logos have been designed and laid out on side two, students should share the images with a peer. Encourage students to design their symbols without too many details, as they will get lost on this scale. • Students should add side two to their cards, first in pencil, and then in ink. • Depending on the age of the kids, reliable students or the teacher can use the Exacto knife to cut notches into the cards. Scissors can also be used in place of the Exacto knife. Either way, make sure students measure out the notches carefully since the will affect whether or not the cards will fit together. • When both sides of the card are complete and the notches have been cut, have students introduce themselves and explain the four symbols on their card before adding their card to the "Class of Cards" structure. If you run short on time, this can be done at the beginning of the next class. • If you have the resources, you may want to have the cards laminated. They will last much longer and the added stiffness will help keep the "Class of Cards" rigid.


Formative Assessment: • participation in discussions • work ethic • informal presentation
Summative Assessment: • finished card meets expectations listed on attached handout

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